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Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Roc / Penguin Putnam HCVR  ISBN/ITEM#: 0451459792
Date: August 3, 2004 List Price 23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

If Nantucket disappeared what would happen to the rest of the world? In Island In The Sea Of Time, Against The Tide Of Years, and On The Oceans Of Eternity SM Stirling traced the adventures of the inhabitants of Nantucket as they are thrust 3,000 years into the past and have to survive without much of the luxury of the present world. In Dies The Fire, Stirling shows what happened to the world they left behind.

As Nantucket leaves the present the rest of the world is forever changed. In an instant, electricity no longer works and gunpowder is no longer as explosive. The underlying rules of the universe are changed. The world is thrust into chaos. Only those with luck, foresight, and skills will survive. The skills needed to survive in this world are those more in tune with the middle ages than the present and those who once played with these skills, are the ones best suited to survival

In the Northwest three leaders emerge during the first year after the change. They each use their knowledge to follow a different path to survival and a place in the new world.

Michael Havel uses skills he learned from his family and in the military to lead a group west to Williamette, Oregon where his family has land that may support the group in the future. Influenced by his Nordic heritage, Havel works to survive and protect the innocent where he can.

Juniper Mackensie is a singer and a Wiccan who quickly realizes the situation and heads to her cabin in Williamette to meet members of her coven to plan out their future. As new members join the coven a clan is formed. They struggle to plant and harvest in ways mostly forgotten, as well as protect themselves from the dangers of the new world.

In Portland, the Protector is creating an army to build an empire. Not satisfied with mere survival, the Protector plans to control as much of the world as he can. Using his knowledge of the past he intends to create an enduring empire with the remnants of the old world.

Although related to earlier works this book can be read without any knowledge of the previous novels. Other than knowing that Nantucket went into the past and that a few names that are mentioned are persons who were characters in these other stories there isn?t any crossover. The character development is excellent. It is hard to ignore the massive amounts of realism in this story. The deaths and plagues can be a bit disheartening, but there is hope for those who endure. Although a few additional viewpoints are used, the basic story unfolds following the actions of Havel and Mackensie.

I read a fair amount and normally I will casually enjoy my way through a good book. But with Dies The Fire, I found myself devouring every page as quickly as I could. I enjoyed the thrill of a world in which so many things we take for granted are gone. The development of this new world should be entertaining. I expect at least two future novels that will continue the story that is unfolding. For fans of ?what if? this is a must read.

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