Saturday, October 25, 2008

Book Review: The Scourge of God

One of my favorite authors, S.M. Stirling is at it again, with his newest publication, The Scourge of God (A novel of The Change).

This new offering takes place in the year 2021, which is also known as CY (change year) 23. In this world that Stirling has crafted, there was a "Change" that took place in 1998, wherein all electricity, mysteriously ceased working. Internal combustion engines stopped firing, gunpowder no longer burned, and Nuclear power plants went dead. In this world, all at once, the lights went out, and a new age began.

In the first three installments of what will eventually be seven (I think) novels, we saw exactly what this loss of technology and power meant to the world in general, and the United States in particular, through several point-of-view characters: Mike Havel, former Marine and pilot who is transporting a wealthy man and his family on a private charter plane when "the lights went out"; Juniper McKenzie, a bard/busker who is a single mother as well as an active member of a group of Wiccans; and Norman Arminger, who is a not-very-nice member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

In these novels, Stirling shows us, in sometimes very stark detail, that despite our claims at "civilization", we are no further removed from what we would call barbarism, than a few missed meals, and a few dark nights. The characters in these novels not only survive, but thrive in a world very different than the one they knew.

In this newest installment, young Rudi McKenzie (the son of Mike Havel and Juniper McKenzie), and a band of young people from the various new nations that were born out of the chaos in the Pacific northwest, have set out on a quest to get to the center of the mystery of "The Change", which lies in the retrieval of a sword, from far-away Nantucket island. The problem is that in order for McKenzie and his friends have to get to Nantucket, they have to traverse most of what used to be the United States, which means crossing the territory of the very hostile United States of Boise, bands of un-friendly "neo-Sioux", and the Army of the Church Universal Triumphant (CUT)

Mind you, this is no sword and sorcery novel (well, maybe it is, I guess that depends on your view of science fiction), but it will certainly appeal to people who enjoy that genre as well as anyone who enjoys "time displacement" stories as well.

I won't give any spoilers, but if I were a science fiction reader who had never had the pleasure of reading anything by Stirling, I would run... run, not walk, to your nearest bookseller and start reading S.M. Stirling's stuff.

You'll be glad you did.

No comments: