Dies The Fire- S.M. Stirling (2004)
A ROC Book
Apocalyptic Science Fiction with Sword and Sorcery Fantasy
Does the fire die out? What started it in the first place? What is the fire, anyway? Is it a literal fire? Is it the spark in the electricity of our modern world?
First of all, I love a book that has a map. I know exactly where I am, how far apart things are, and the scope of the world I will soon be a part of. S.M Stirling writes in third-person limited, giving the reader a glimpse into the minds of Juniper Mackenzine (Lady Juniper) and Mike Havel (Lord Bear). Though these two do not meet until the third part of the book, their destinies are heavily intertwined.
The Change is never explained in the book, but it isn’t needed. S.M. Stirling provides character explanations for why electricity, engines, and even weapons no longer work. The people who have survived the chaos, raids, and hunger must learn how to survive a new way. Various groups of people are seen surviving to the best of their abilities, but it is Juniper’s country home that lures so many. She is a witch of traditional values, and it is her inner strength and the bonds of her people that allow them to persevere.
“There were simply things you couldn’t think about too much, or you’d lose the will to live.”
Think about how you would get water and food for dozens. How would you clothe and house people in a safe environment? How could you possibly keep children and your loved ones safe from criminals turned Lords? Surely, there would be those who seek to take control of a new world. It wouldn’t be difficult for these past criminals to take advantage of the weak. Soon, an army is created, and the next thing is to force a tax and loyalty. There is nothing to stop those from maiming, raping, and murdering the families who will not play by their new rules.
In Dies The Fire, there are no rules. Each group must create a set of regulations for their own people, and they have to demand that they are respected to keep moral high and to avoid fear and uncomfortable feelings that could lead to an uprising of sorts. Juniper, along with her clans folk, welcome newcomers onto their land. Through plenty of sweat and even death, her people can find a way to work the land to survive the seasons. But, the world is bigger than the Mackenzie Clan, and soon, they would have to venture out of the unfinished palisades.
Mike Havel, or Lord Bear, as his mates come to call him, is the leader of a group of savants who are equipped with all the right skills and know-how to form a powerful force of “helpers.”
“I should start thinking about the longer term, a little. Once things hit bottom, they’ll have to start up again–but in a new way, or a very old way. A strong man is what’s needed, leadership, and something to believe in. Someone has to build on the ruins. Ken was right; we’re back in the age of legends and heroes. A dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.”
Thieves, cannibals, and rapists are the least of their worries, though they have their scars to prove their worth in battle. Their ability with swords and bows is unmatched (as they have regular training sessions), and their engineers and blacksmiths have provided ample and effective armor and weaponry.
“Lord, Mike, this is America. You know how many tens of millions are cars are sitting’ around, with every wheel on half a dozen sword blanks? All I had to do was be careful to keep it cool so’s not to lose the temper, straighten is out with a sledgehammer, file an’ cut it to shape and do the hilt ‘n guard–guard’s brass strip from the engine grille of the truck–then grind the blade to the right cross-section and hone on the edge. Didn’t take more than a day. Astrid’s pa helped a good deal, and some books on old-time cavalry I got, so I’m working’ on one for each of us.”
S.M. Stirling’s novel is clear and convincing. He seems an expert in aviation, Wiccan rites, survival, and early weaponry. Not once did I question the information offered, and he did something for me that I value heavily in a book that I read: he offered a new point of view … a new way to think about myself and the world I live in. I was only pulled from the story one time … page 561 of the paperback has a sentence with a repeated word … “with with.”
I saw myself in Lord Bear and even Lady Juniper. Mike’s a-lister Astrid reminded me of my younger self- daring, mischievous, and a lover of mythology. It is she who defines the tone of the Bearkillers. I often wonder how I would handle life post-apocalypse. It is a fantasy I dwell in often. To consider how one would handle crime in a world without law helps us all to understand how important it is to stay true to the good, no matter the cost. Sometimes you have to do the dirty work. Sometimes you have to let your soul wither a little. But, you always have to uphold honor, duty, and respect.
I reside in the world of speculative fiction, mostly, and to me, this book is right up my alley. It is written well and delves deeply into a world rebuilt. I have learned to care a great deal for Mike, Juniper, Signe, Astrid, Dennis, Eiler, and of course, little Rudi. I think you will too.
“Merry met, and merry parting, and merry meet again.”