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Stirling's Dies the Fire began an alternative history trilogy with a stunning premise: in 1998, the laws of nature suffered a mysterious change: gunpowder can't explode, electrical devices don't work-in short, the last 250 years of high-tech gadgetry suddenly are useless. This sequel shows what has happened to the world since the collapse of civilization. A group of people in the Pacific Northwest have joined together to rediscover old skills; Mike Havel, leader of the Bearkillers clan, and Wiccan priestess/folksinger Juniper Mackenzie help their followers adjust to new possibilities. Nearby, however, kinky former college professor Norman Arminger is exploiting his knowledge of medieval lore to manage the Protectorate, a brutal and ruthlessly-expanding dictatorship. This middle volume of the trilogy shows skirmishes between the factions, leading up to an inevitable confrontation. Stirling's pictures of ruined cities and towns are grimly convincing, and his loving descriptions of familiar landscapes gone wild are wonderful. If the people were as freshly imagined as their world, the novel would be splendid, but even with cardboard characters, it's still an extremely readable installment in a better than average tale.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The Bearkillers and Clan Mackenzie of Dies the Fire (2004) have spent the eight years since the Change, which left the world without such conveniences as electricity and gunpowder, carving out a home for themselves in the rich farmland of Oregon's Willamette Valley. The peace they enjoy is fragile, thanks to the Protector of Portland, Norman Arminger, who is ready to wage war to control the valley's farmland with methods derived from a medieval warlord: slavery, feudal oppression, and thugs running his army. The arrival of British survivors on a Tasmanian ship complicates matters, especially when they encounter Arminger first. The Mackenzie (i.e., clan leader), Juniper, brings a mystical attitude to the confrontation, and it begins to seem as though in this world without familiar technology, magic might in fact be just around the corner. The Bearkillers, meanwhile, are ever more influenced by Tolkien, thanks to the obsession of certain younger members. Stirling's blending of fiction and history produces a strange, hybrid civilization, in which the confrontation between warlord and mystic is viscerally satisfying. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.