The Scourge of God (The Change)
by S.M. Stirling
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Roc Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451462282
Date: 02 September 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The epic odyssey across a post change America continues with more harrowing escapades, while the war between the Corvallis members and Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) and Idaho starts. The ripples spreading from Ingolf and his vision continue to grow in intensity drawing in more and more of the world. Mystical forces are also playing a more direct role in the world left behind.
The book starts out just after the end of The Sunrise Lands. The capture of Mathilda and the other Portlanders was a big loss. Rudi and his siblings jump to immediate action to arrange their freedom. Breaking them out is easy, getting away is a different matter. One problem they will face is that certain CUT cultists have odd attributes. They seem overly strong and more focused and intense than even a berserker in full rage. This makes stopping them very difficult as they survive wounds that would kill any normal person. Rudi and company move eastward and try to evade the CUT extremists. Though not always successfully.
The Corvallis group decides that it must act to prevent Idaho or CUT from gaining a foothold closer to their realms. The question of who will control Pendleton is thorny. The logical choice would be Portland due to proximity, but the other members don't trust the Portland Protective Association. Once a solution is arrived at, they move on Pendleton to find that Idaho and CUT already have a strong presence there. Thus the war begins, one larger than the prior one.
This is the second in a planned four book series. As you would expect, the goal is to set up the world for the coming battles, develop characters, and create a difficult foe. This book achieves these goals. The only problem is that it is just a set up. The latter books will have the most important action. The good thing is that Stirling has shown a willingness to harm and kill characters. Rudi is a great fighter, but even he doesn't get away unscathed. The characters have flaws and show them, sometimes to unfortunate consequences.
As stated before, the arcane is more prominent. The spirits and gods are more active. There is still more to be explained about the forces in action in CUT. The ever mysterious Nantucket still awaits a half a continent away. The question is whether they reach Nantucket in the next book or the finale. The next book is titled, The Sword of the Lady. That would seem to indicate that the band will make it to Nantucket based on the foreshadowing of the visions had by Ingolf, Rudi, and others.
I liked this book. I wonder at the mystical elements and how much of a role they will play in the future of the series. I look forward to seeing how things are developing east of the Mississippi and hope for a detour through Richland. Stirling is a master of world building. This series has gone a long way from its point of departure, but still keeps a horde of fans wanting more.