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Dies the Fire by S. M. Stirling

Dies the Fire (2004)

by S. M. Stirling

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Emberverse (1), Nantucket event series (4)

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First in the Emberverse series, 4th if you include the Nantucket books.

One of the best writers of dystopia novels, in my opinion. Stirling concentrates on how people will adapt, change, adjust, survive when a real disaster strikes.

In the Nantucket series, the island is hit by some sort of brilliant light and sent back in time to the Iron Age.

In the Emberverse series, he moves westward to Idaho and we learn the same event did not move the rest of the world into the past, but instead just turns out the lights as well as stops every other machine beyond the very basic sort.

We follow two people primarily: Juniper, an old fashioned witch as she calls herself, a believer in the goddess and the coven leader of a small group, and Mike, who, when the change comes is piloting a small plane across Idaho taking a wealthy family to their ranch for a vacation.

Mike first has to fight his suddenly non-functional plane to the ground and keep himself and his passengers alive, then he has to trek them out of the wilderness to find some sort of help. It takes them a bit longer to realize what has happened, although Mike is aware that his emergency equipment is non-functional, like the plane.

Juniper, meanwhile, is caught in a small town, and experiences the first evidences of lawlessness and violence. She’s a smart cookie though, and works to get herself, her daughter and a few friends out of town toward the small cabin she inherited from her grandfather.

Highly recommended, but bluntly violent given the situations the good guys find themselves in. Still, good to see how people can learn to rise above disaster and fight to do what is right. ( )
  majkia | Nov 23, 2014 |
Summary: Dies The Fire is the first in a series of books set after an unexplained event at the tail end of the 20th Century causes all modern technology to stop working, with catastrophic consequences. This first book mostly centres on two characters in the north-west United States, Mike Havel, an ex-Marine, and Juniper McKenzie, a witch (that is, a practitioner of the Wiccan faith). I found it interesting and enjoyable, and I'll probably read the next book in the series, The Protector's War.

Good points: S. M. Stirling has obviously done his research. Dies the Fire is full of interesting information and speculation about all sorts of things. Many people might find this sort of didactic style of writing boring, but I love learning new things, and thinking about "what-if" scenarios, so I just lapped it up! I even found the battle scenes held my attention - normally descriptions of battles and combat in fiction make my eyes glaze over. Of course, a situation where "alien space bats" stop electricity, gunpowder and steam engines from working is never going to happen in the real world, but if you think about it, our modern society is resting on some very complex social and technological foundations. Just how robust are those foundations? As a D&D player, I found the story of modern people forced to cope without modern technology particularly interesting - I think Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson would have liked this book!

Bad points: The story was so contrived that I found it impossible to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in the book. It wasn't the fact that the laws of physics had changed that annoyed me so much as the fact that the main characters are without flaws or faults, and are supernaturally lucky. So, I would say that as a piece of literature, this is badly written. Nevertheless, it is full of so much interesting stuff that I enjoyed reading it anyway. Oh, and I should mention the cover. With so many interesting scenes and characters in the book, why such a generic and forgettable cover? ( )
  Akiyama | Aug 8, 2014 |
On what is an otherwise normal day in March 1998, all technology fails. In Montana, a plane flown by a former military man, carrying a family to their ranch, falls from the sky. In Oregon, larger planes falls from the sky and crash into major cities. In the coming days people would do whatever they could to survive. The family who survives the plane crash turn into a wandering band of mercenaries, and one woman in Oregon takes her coven and some survivors and provides safety on her family's land. While their lives manage to come to a place where they can all survive and potentially thrive, not all people are thinking in altruistic ways. Portland, OR has been taken over by a former academic specializing in Norman history and does his best to recreate that.

A story that will suck you in hard and make you wish for hours uninterrupted just to find out how these real and engaging people will manage to survive each day. No more electricity, no more mass transit, no more GUNPOWDER. Pre-industrial life comes roaring back, how would you handle it? ( )
  quantumbutterfly | Jun 16, 2014 |
I started reading Dies the Fire to pass the time on a five-hour flight. I'm a nervous flier, and it helps to lose myself in a book.
Unfortunately for me, Dies the Fire begins with a plane dropping, powerless, from the sky. Oops!
This was a pretty decent read. Stirling begins with the premise that, one ordinary day, electricity, internal-combustion engines, and explosives suddenly stop working. Stirling explores this what-if scenario, centering his tale on two individuals: Juniper, a Wiccan folk musician, and Mike, an ex-Air Force pilot who has been running civilian charter flights out of Idaho.
Stirling's vision bears much resemblance to what we've seen in Alas, Babylon and other post-apocalyptic tales. Society breaks down, many, many people die, and a new social order begins to emerge.
The world Stirling shows us is brutal, and we're treated to some very nasty scenes of violence and combat. Indeed, those who survive in this world learn to fight with swords and bows, and to protect themselves with armor and shields. They survive through ingenuity, traditional crafts and skills, and pure hard work.
Leaders begin to emerge out of the chaos, some power-hungry and coercive, others noble and brilliant.
I have a hard time coming to any conclusions about Dies the Fire. I did enjoy it, but I found it slow going, with many descriptive passages about the design and construction of weapons and buildings. I rooted for the protagonists, but they rose to the occasion a bit too thoroughly to be believed. I also found it unintentionally hilarious that Stirling seriously depicts an Urban Studies professor whose background somehow qualifies him to become an evil overlord -- something about his understanding of street gangs? Okay.
Toward the end of the book, I felt a loss of momentum as I realized that it was paving the way for a sequel, and not all the big questions would be answered. But mostly, I'm just not the sort of person who takes enough of an interest in the kind of detail that Stirling supplies. (A sure sign that I would not survive in the world he depicts!) So, while I appreciate Dies the Fire, and while I recognize the qualities that will lead people to read the sequels (The Protector's War follows), I don't think that I'll read on. ( )
  ksimon | Feb 6, 2014 |
This is an awesome post apocalyptic book. Good character development, and a realistic portrayal of what society would look like if the power went out. The Wicca references became annoying after a while, but the Gaelic saying were clever. This book is a keeper ( )
  delta351 | Dec 19, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
S. M. Stirlingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McLaren, ToddNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Gina Taconi-Moore, and to her Andrew, currently serving the great Republic in a far-off, sandy, unpleasant place. Long life and happiness!
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Michael Havel pulled his battered 4×4 into the employees’ parking lot, locked up and swung his just-in-case gear out of the back, the strap of the pack over one shoulder and the gun case on the other.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451460413, Mass Market Paperback)

The Change occurred when an electrical storm centered over the island of Nantucket produced a blinding white flash that rendered all electronic devices and fuels inoperable. What follows is the most terrible global catastrophe in the history of the human race-and a Dark Age more universal and complete than could possibly be imagined.

"Dies the Fire kept me reading till five in the morning so I could finish at one great gulp..."—New York Times bestselling author Harry Turtledove

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When a strange electrical storm over the island of Nantucket suddenly causes all electronic devices to cease functioning, the world is faced with an unimaginable transformation, one that is complicated by some individuals' ruthless quest for ultimate domination.… (more)

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