Saturday, October 07, 2006

Dies the Fire - S. M. Stirling

Dies the Fire
S.M. Stirling

Fantasy/Science Fiction

It’s been said that society is roughly three hot meals away from total anarchy. Meaning that, if essential services like electricity, transportation, and communication break down, society as a whole begins to dissolve. This is the case when The Change happens. The Change occurs in 1998, in a blinding flash of white light. Instantly, all electronic devices are rendered inoperative. It’s after dark, and it quickly becomes clear that battery-operated flashlights and gas-powered generators are also useless. As it happens, The Change has altered gunpowder and other explosive materials, making them harmless. This has its upside and its downside.

There’s no way to fix what’s happened. And it’s happened everywhere. The government finds itself unable to restore order, and chaos reigns. A huge percentage of the population dies off, some because of famine (no modern harvesting or transportation methods available to move the food to the people) and disease (ditto medicines.) The survivors begin to group together and re-establish society. Juniper Mackenzie, a Wiccan, organizes her group of survivors based on Wiccan beliefs and clan structure, seeing The Change as a way to return to a more simple and peaceful lifestyle. Mike Havel, an ex-military pilot forced to land a private plane full of passengers when his engines died during flight, organizes his group along more military lines, believing that ability to defend themselves is paramount in this uncertain time. Norman Arminger, a medieval scholar, decides that power means survival and sets his group to attacking others and stealing their food and resources.

One of the groups in situated near Portland, in Corvallis, site of many a Ren Faire. These people do have a distinct advantage, since the art of blacksmithing, for example, is not lost or completely foreign to them. While this might be a bit of a convenience in storytelling, it’s woven into the plot in such a way that it makes sense and moves things forward, since mankind has suddenly been tossed back into the Dark Ages, technologically speaking. There are many characters and storylines to follow here, making it a rich experience. There are two further novels in this series, THE PROTECTOR’S WAR and A MEETING AT CORVALLIS, both of which will be reviewed here soon. If you enjoy apocalyptic or ‘end of society’ stories, you won’t want to miss this one.

Rating: 8
September 2005
ISBN# 0-451-46041-3 (paperback)


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