Stirling’s Change
Stirling’s Change avatar

The Change series by S. M. Stirling is a great example of a series that holds your interest through compelling characters and situations. The series is based on the premise that a disaster strikes the Earth in the form of a disturbance that happens in a flash of light which instantaneously shuts down all electric power and reduces the efficiency of steam power and gunpowder making them almost useless. No explanation is given for this anomaly. The reader soon begins to suspect that this is not really a science fiction, alternate reality tale, but much more a blend of science fiction and fantasy that is not often found in the speculative fiction genre.

Dies The Fire by S. m. StirlingThe series started with a trilogy: Dies the Fire, The Protector’s War, and A Meeting at Corvallis. These first three books established four main societies that arise in, of all places, Oregon.  The primary group consists of the Mackenzies: neo-Wiccans who go back to clan life and the Old Religion (paganism). The other groups range from the Portland Protective Association, a bunch of medieval re-enactors who become “might makes right” rulers to a pack of academics in Corvallis who can’t do anything without a committee, to the Bearkillers, a quasi-military group including some Tolkienites who follow the Middle Earth books religiously. We also run across religious groups, cowboy bosses, and wandering bands of cannibals and looters.

The series continues with (so far) five more books: The Sunrise Lands, The Scourge of God, The Sword of the Lady, The High King of Montival, and, the latest (2011), The Tears The Sunrise Lands by S. M. Stirlingof the Sun. Knowing that he had a good thing going and probably getting caught up in his story and great characters himself, Stirling continued the series with Rudi Mackenzie, sometimes known as Artos,  travelling across the entire US to find the mysterious Sword of the Lady. On this trip, we see other types of societies that have grown up after The Change: a Buddhist group in Montana, a neo-USA group in Idaho, Mormons near Utah, and the Sioux in Wyoming. There are others as he moves East, each showing the strengths and weaknesses of a way of life.

All of this makes a fascinating story with strange, but realistically human, characters and The Tears of the Sun by S. M. Stirlinglots of action as the groups come into conflict. Stirling’s descriptions of the land, of sensory details like food and music, and of his characters are all written with loving care that draws the reader into his strange but believable world.

As you may have noted if you read my review of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, I won’t stick with a series unless it really holds my attention. Stirling’s series has done that so far (I’m in the middle of book 6) despite the inevitable repetition of terms like “feet drumming the ground” when a person has been violently killed, “clothyard shafts” when referring to the arrows of the Mackenzie clan, and despite a great deal of violence. Part of the secret of keeping readers interested lies in making each book a story all its own with a beginning, a middle, and—most importantly—an end. Skilled writers like Stirling know how to end a story without ending a series and always leave their readers wanting more.

2012, Decision Consulting, Inc. (DCI). All rights reserved. All copies must include this copyright statement.

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