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Dies the Fire: A Novel of the Change Mass Market Paperback – September 6, 2005

460 customer reviews
Book 1 of 11 in the Emberverse Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What is the foundation of our civilization? asks Stirling (Conquistador) in this rousing tale of the aftermath of an uncanny event, "the Change," that renders electronics and explosives (including firearms) inoperative. As American society disintegrates, without either a government able to maintain order or an economy capable of sustaining a large population, most of the world dies off from a combination of famine, plague, brigandage and just plain bad luck. The survivors are those who adapt most quickly, either by making it to the country and growing their own crops—or by taking those crops from others by force. Chief among the latter is a former professor of medieval history with visions of empire, who sends bicycling hordes of street thugs into the countryside. Those opposing him include an ex-Marine bush pilot, who teams up with a Texas horse wrangler and a teenage Tolkien fanatic to create something very much like the Riders of Rohan. Ultimately, Stirling shows that while our technology influences the means by which we live, it is the myths we believe in that determine how we live. The novel's dual themes—myth and technology—should appeal to both fantasy and hard SF readers as well as to techno-thriller fans.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

For survivors of a mysterious event that caused electricity, internal combustion engines, and gunpowder to fail, the Pacific Northwest furnishes enough land to support subsistence existence in a future that belongs not to today's rifle-toting survivalists but to people who know older ways. Musician Juniper takes refuge on her family's land with a growing group of friends that becomes "Clan MacKenzie." Reenactors know useful things (see Jenny Thompson's War Games [BKL Je 1&15 04]), such as how to build log houses and craft bows for hunting. Meanwhile, Mike Havel, a pilot who was flying when the Change happened, and his passengers, having survived crashing in a frigid lake, gather followers, too. Thanks to a former Society for Creative Anachronism (a real organization of eclectic reenactors) fencer, and after hard work and the accident that gives their group the name "Bearkillers," they have the knowledge to sell their protective services. There are villains, too, such as a medieval history professor who starts a feudal revival, in Stirling's intriguing what-if about modern humans denied their treasured conveniences. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 573 pages
  • Publisher: Roc (September 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451460413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451460417
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.4 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (460 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a writer by trade, born in France but Canadian by origin and American by naturalization, living in New Mexico at present. My hobbies are mostly related to the craft -- I love history, anthropology and archaeology, and am interested in the sciences. The martial arts are my main physical hobby.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

160 of 193 people found the following review helpful By Matt McDougall on August 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of novels that take humanity and mix things up by altering the familiar scenario. Say by sending a community back in time with all their technology in tact, but with no access to the resources necessary to sustain that technology.

Well, Stirling has taken that premise and twisted it here. What if our modern day society was suddenly bereft of its technology? Anything powered by electricity, batteries, or gasoline suddenly useless? Gunpowder chemically altered to loose its highly explosive tendencies?

What would society do, without irrigation and machinery to run the massive farms, without refineries, and trucks, and refrigeration?

With six billion people on the planet, the resulting chaos is not at all cheerful. We never actually see the savage toll in a city larger than Portland (and even there not directly), but allusions to what it must be like in New York or Tokyo, and to what happened in St. Louis say plenty.

The story unfolds brilliantly, as people slowly begin to band together, and struggle to survive in this new world. They must learn how to farm, ride horses, make weapons, and then use them. And Stirling does an excellent job portraying the difficulty of each, with a particularly inspired source of metal for swords.

This book is one part nightmare, one part medievalist's fantasy, which makes its villain all the more fitting.

If you're wavering, pick up a copy, it's well worth the read.
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123 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Craig Clark on July 30, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There is an excellent half a story in this book somewhere. The problem is wading through the other half to get there. Our two main protagonist's Mike Havel and Juniper Mackenzie are quite interesting characters. But in some ways that is a bad thing. Why you say, "aren't interesting characters the reason you read a story?" Very true, but with any novel based on fiction there is a suspension of disbelief that an author must ask of his readers. Sometimes credibility is stretched and sometimes it is shattered - much like stepping on a tourist's snow globe of Kooskia, ID.

As a Marine and resident of western Montana I was predisposed to identify with Mike Havel the character, but then I found out that Mike was former Force Recon (Sniper qualified too!), Gulf War veteran, master of the Finnish fighting knife and raised as an Indian tracker/hunter. I am not quite sure if such a person exists in reality but I am willing to go with it if the author doesn't beat me over the head with it multiple times throughout his book.

This compounds with the problem that our protagonist's very survival isn't just a matter of elite breeding and an unlikely intersection of family trees but also they happen upon expert bowyer/fletchers, horse hand/blacksmiths, and SCA guru's not to mention library's containing everything you ever wanted to know about ancient warrior societies, growing crops and mounted combat. Maybe this is necessary for an interesting story, but couldn't they just get lucky killing people instead of getting lucky knowing how to kill people?

There is also the problem with explosives, electricity, and pressurized gases. Every author does some hand waving to sell a story, Stirling backs himself into a corner with his Change and barely goes through the motions to explain it.
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266 of 337 people found the following review helpful By Willy Brownshoe Brown on September 24, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
You have probably read the character synopsis and storyline already, so I will save you that, my little rant focuses on the "Pfffftt" moments in the story which, sadly, are myriad.

This was easily one of the worst post-apocalypse books I have ever read in that the necessities for survival were
made conveniently available, so much so that you have to wonder how the author managed to keep the good guys from discovering alien technology that could render them invisible or something.

Where do I start?

Heroine Juniper and her merry band make it to her mountain hideaway where they discover that their closest neighbors are not only conveniently dead (no difficult problems about sharing their stuff) but left behind a house jammed to the rafters with everything from medicine to food to blankets. The barn is stocked with seed potatoes and hay (because surprise, the seed tater delivery guy was there the day of The Change), there are chickens and cows for meat and milk, and the deceased former owners even managed to make sure the pasture gates were closed so the critters couldn't wander away. Hooray! Bonus: Juniper's own nearby cabin can't be seen from the road and is conveniently located near a clear stream and wonderfully poetic meadows.

As for everything else needed to make make it in this exciting new world, have no fear, wonderful coincidence and a generous author will provide.

The party will need trained horses for transport and armored cavalry: Up walks Bob, the expert horse wrangler. I know I know, this isn't horse country so what am I doing here.
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Scott Burright on February 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In this novel, the world Changes, with a capital C, literally in a flash, and the characters survive by going medieval. Although Stirling's workmanlike prose is no pleasure to read for its own sake, his attention to detail is painstaking and often edifying, and his premise holds the possibility of an engrossing adventure. Sadly, a few overarching flaws unsuspend my disbelief.

One nagging detail is Stirling's depiction of Juniper, the Wiccan point-of-view character. You know how you can forget a friend's religion for days or weeks at a time, until something suddenly reminds you of it? Stirling never lets us forget Juniper's religion for even half a page. He litters her every thought and utterance with "blessed be" and "by the Cosmic Sphincter" and so on. It's reminiscent of children's books by Richard Scarry, where you know you're in France because all the animals are wearing berets and saying "ooh la la" and running around the Eiffel Tower. Same with every major character's ethnicity. Instead of just showing us what Mike Havel is like, Stirling constantly reminds us that Mike is of Finnish descent. In real life, one might ask who gives a damn. In fiction, it comes across as a substitute for characterization.

Still, I don't read novels like this for the author's mastery of form, and so I'm willing to overlook some awkwardness. What I can't overlook is the incredible way the police and military simply evaporate after the Change. The last we see of the police as a social institution is some poor, clueless cop getting a beatdown from rioters in the first minutes after the Change. "Click click, oh no, my gun doesn't work! What ever shall I do?
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