They called it "The Change" and for good reason. Now, nine years (and two books) after the white flash and blinding pain that brought in a new age where electricity doesn't electrify and explosives don't go boom, we see a new world so different from the one we currently occupy that we wouldn't recognize it if we tried. At one point in A Meeting at Corvallis, a character postulates about the possibility that the change did not just change the physics of the natural world, but also changed the people in some fundamental way. Perhaps, but the mysteries of the why take a backseat to the here and now in this book.
The here and now is a grim look at the changed world concentrating on the free lands of the Willamette Valley against the Dictatorial Portland Protective Association, under the brutal control of the Lord Protector, Norman Arminger. The free societies consist mainly of Mike Navel's Bearkillers, Juniper MacKenzie's Dun MacKenzie, a Wicca collective, and Mount Angel, a pre-change Monastery, which is an oasis for the escapee's of the Protectorate. Along with theses three main groups are the Dunedain Rangers, and group of Tolkenesque Rangers who speak elfish and treat the change as if it was the fifth age of Middle Earth. These Groups meet at the former Oregon State University, at the city of Corvallis to try to persuade the group to form a treaty to stand against any aggression by any party.
OK, I know, it sounds a bit complex, and maybe a bit bizarre, but if you made it through the first two of this Post-Apocalyptic trilogy, you should have some idea of what I am talking about here. The Meeting at Corvallis indicated in the title, is just the prelim to what truly becomes the war between the Protector, and the combined forces that oppose him. This book starts with the political intrigue and maneuvering and moves into an all out Military tale with some of Stirling's strongest battle scenes since The General series.
For fans of the series, and writer, which I am, this is easily the strongest of the three books. With the characters developed and the conflict set up, it was time for action. Yet, Stirling takes it a bit further, giving us the best look at the "hated enemy" he has in either of the previous books. While the political and military details were detailed and intricate as you would expect, the sub plots dealing with the Tiphaine, Lady Arminger's bodyguard, give us a great insight into the complicated world of the PPA, and the complications of War. Here, Stirling really surprised me, giving greater depth, and providing a large chunk of the point of view to what seemed like a minor character in the earlier editions. Like with the Draka series, the first hand glimpse at the "evil" enemy doesn't really muddy the waters as much as make you step back and look at the conflict from new angles. Although, your gut reactions may not change much, the knee jerks become less jerky.
A Meeting at Corvallis was an exciting and excellent ending for a strong trilogy. The Change worked at an excellent devise, yet, by the third book, The Change becomes back story, and almost an annoyance to many of the characters. Unlike most Post-Apocalyptic books, the series quickly changes from looking to the past to living in the present. Many of the characters who were adults before the Change, may seem to be play-acting in their new psuedo-medieval roles, but those who came to age post-change, this is the real world. This change in philosophy does well to end this trilogy while setting up the next series well.
Nuts and bolts times. If you liked the first two books, you will love A Meeting at Corvallis. If you were one of those who groaned over all the 'Blessed Be's' and called The Protector's War the Wicca Left Behind, then you are entering safe territory. The beautiful old religion (or as one of the Father's in Mount Angel called it, the very young old religion) is still a significant aspect of the story, but doesn't dominate the pages to the degree it did in the first two books. Overall, this was easily one of my favorite reads of the year.