October 07, 2011

Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling

This book has a very interesting concept, in fact, that's what made me read it. What would happen if most modern technology disappeared? And what would happen if it was all over the world with no recovery? Dies the Fire tries to answer that question. It has its gaps, but overall, it's a very good story.

Juniper McKenzie is a musician and wiccan, both of which are very important to personality. While playing in a bar during what comes to be known as the "Change" she proves herself a true leader and organizer. She, the bartender Dennie, and her daughter Eilir have an idea of what's going to happen and it isn't pretty. They set out for some property an uncle had left her in the middle of nowhere. Along the way, they gather up useful implements that will help since no electricity, guns, or any other modern instruments work. Swords, seeds, bow and arrows, and other items make it into their wagon.

Mike Havel and his group were in a plane he was flying at the time of the Change. He and the Larsson family crash land into a stream and at first don't know anything that's happened. As they travel for help and encounter friend and foe though, they learn the awful truth of what's happened to the world. Lucky enough to have a few archers in their group and skilled with a sword, Havel's group becomes known as the Bearkillers and are a desirable group to join.

Both he and the McKenzies have an enemy. A man who has dubbed himself the Protector and organized some of the NorthWest's greatest crime lords together has developed a feudal system of power, and he wants the areas that the Bearkillers and McKenzie's occupy. A war is in the making and one that will require everyone's skill with primitive weapons. To make it even harder, they have to find a way to survive and eat with minimal technology as well.

I love the characters in this novel. Stirling actually makes you care about them and want to see them succeed. Both McKenzie's group and the Bearkillers are an intricate mix of people with so many skills. One could argue that they were lucky to find people with hobbies that would be useful, but different groups of people tend to be attracted to different things so it really isn't that surprising. The leaders of these bands, Mike and Juniper, are also strong people and a pleasure to read about.

Stirling tends to dwell on a lot of detail. This isn't necessarily bad but it can get long-winded sometimes. He especially spends a lot of time on the Wiccan religion, and while I found it interesting as most people incorporate Christianity into novels and Wiccan is barely used, more religiously minded folks might find it overbearing and offensive. He does a good job of describing just won't work in the new world, but I did find a few things missing. What about solar or wind power? They aren't mentioned in this book and could have been a benefit to the people. They have a windmill but only use it for grinding wheat as far as I could tell. As a warning, there are some gory parts of this book and it might not be appropriate for young children or those with a weak stomach.

Its an interesting series and I plan on continuing it. This book really makes you want to learn a useful skill, that's for sure!

Dies the Fire
Copyright 2004
573 pages

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