Hey All, I know we’ve been a bit remiss lately in providing timely updates and reviews, but we have regular day jobs that keep us from doing what we love all the time! Anyways, Now that it is summertime we’ll have more time to write reviews for you! The first book I’d love for all of you to take a peek at is the book Dies the Fire.
The book begins in the realm of “Imagine the world puttering along just fine. All of a sudden… BANG!” In the case of S.M. Sterling’s first novel in this series, the “bang” is the sudden inability of any electrical or chemical based energy reaction to work. Long story short – the fire dies. Essentially, any chemical reaction (including electricity) that creates lots of power – combustion, steam power, gunpowder – fails. No phones, no internet, no power, no working guns, not even steam engines. In a world suddenly unable to feed or defend itself, civilization shatters. This first book covers the collapse and introduction to our three main factions as focused on the events in the state of Oregon. I personally liked how Sterling picked this area. It has lots of people, but also lots of available farmland and the requisite “hippie” population that has the skills necessary to survive and eventually thrive in a post-Change world. The first faction is Mike Havel and the Larsson Family, who manage to survive an airplane crash due to the Change, confront various bandits and ner-do-wells as they gather followers and march on a semi-pilgrimage to the ancestral home of the Larson Family. Drawing partially on his Native American background (a minute background, but still) plus a healthy dose of military survival training, as well as the ingenuity on the part of the Larson family allow Havel and company to form a well-trained, part knights-in-armor, part Mongol horse-archer mercenary company. In my opinion, this story plot is the most interesting as well as the most manageable to understand. You’ll see what I mean in a paragraph or so. OH, by the way, did I mention they call themselves “Bearkillers”… yea..
The second faction that Sterling introduces us to are the Clan Mackenzie. Run by Celtic bard and songstress Juniper Mackenzie, a witch (literally) of the old style, who saw what the change meant a bit quicker than those around her. She manages to escape the University town of Corvallis the night of the Change, bringing with her a small group of followers. Escaping to her home in the Eastern Willamette Valley, some of the most fertile land in Oregon, she begins to rebuild her world from the ashes. Along with her mute daughter, Ellir, she sows the seeds of a clan type system, while coming into contact and opposition to the floundering and collapsing Oregon state government. In the attempt to not reveal too much, I won’t tell you much more about her story arch, but needless to say it is a bit heavy on the song and Celtic religious ceremony side. I understand the need, but at the same time I honestly found myself skipping over the words several times in an effort to get back to the story. Oh, and be prepared for lots of food descriptions. Do not read this book hungry!
Finally, we meet the forces of death, despair, autocracy, and feudalism. The Portland Protective Association (PPA for short) run by Nathan Arminger, a geek in armor with a background in anthropology and history, seizes control of Portland, executes the mayor, police chief and governor, and begin to rapidly expand. Drawing on the huge food supplies on the Columbia river, the enslave half the city population and begin taking large swaths of land within a few months after the change. This comes into conflict with both the Mackenzie clan and Bearkillers. All leaders see an eventual show down in the near future. But not in this book!
Is this book a good read? Absolutely. I give it 9.5/10 stars. Minus the extra fluff (songs, food descriptions, chanting ceremonies) it’s an excellent start to the series that will leave you running to the library, bookstore, or your kindle for the next installment. You won’t be disappointed in the first three books of the series either (including Dies the Fire). The second book The Protectors War is, well, essentially about what it says, with a twist on a raid that goes horribly right … in a new direction. The final book in this trilogy is A Meeting at Corvallis, which actually refers more to the ending of the first trilogy rather than the main events. All are must reads. Let me know what you think of them in the comments below!