Review: Dies The Fire

Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling

Dies the Fire

By S.M. Sterling

I’ve always been a sucker for the history changers.  The people who forged a path that changed the world.  Martin Luther King comes to mind.  All the way down to that darn butterfly in the Amazon that everyone is so fond of talking about.  When you’ve changed the world, you’ve laid a path, woven a tale, and made things different.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that I like alternative history fiction.  What little of it I’ve read at least.  I cut my teeth on S.M. Sterling’s work with a novel of his called Conquistador.  It was a book that I had a hard time getting into, but it quickly became a page turner and was a great book.  Given that I liked Conquistador so much, I though that I’d give another book of Mr. Sterling’s a try.  This time around, a truly alternative history fiction.

Dies the Fire is a novel of The Change.  A singular event that changes the way the world works.  Combustible materials such as gas and gunpowder no longer combust with the same intensity that they did before.  What this accomplishes is to render useless all cars, guns and all electrical devices.  Consider that for a moment.  All cars, guns and electrical devices are rendered useless.  What would that mean for your everyday life?  Likely, the same things it meant for the characters in Dies the Fire.

The world is turned upside down, and is thrown into chaos.  As they people begin realizing what is going on and accepting that it might not change back, a few make the best of it and begin to gather the pieces.  Dies the Fire follows three groups of these people either directly or indirectly.  As we follow them through the first few days post-change, we begin to see a new kind of world emerge.  A post-modern world that has been thrust back hundreds of years into a new dark age.

Dies the Fire is a thrilling tale from start to finish.  The concept is pretty good, and the writing is also quite good.  But what really makes the novel, for me at least, is the way that S.M. Sterling has captured the interactions between the survivors of The Change.  Not only does he catch their struggle to deal with the new world, both emotionally and physically, he also catches the changes that occur as they begin to adapt to their new life in their new world.

If you’ve never read a novel by S.M. Sterling, this could be a good one to start on.  Beware, however, that it’s the first of a trilogy that has spawned a second trilogy and an upcoming third trilogy.  If you fall for the tale and the characters the way I did, you could be in for a 9 book journey.  They do read fast though, so it won’t be all bad.  Especially if you’re an alternative fiction fan, you should pick up Dies the Fire.

Review: Conquistador

Conquistador S.M. StirlingConquistador
By S.M. Stirling

I’m going to jump right in and give you the absolutely worst part of this book now. If you go beyond that, you’ll see why I end up recommending this book. The worst part of this book is that it takes very nearly 100 pages to get into the story. That fact is really unfortunate for the book as I’m sure that many readers stopped well before that 100 pages and never completed the book.

Conquistador is dubbed as an alternative history novel. It certainly has some hints of alternative history, but it really didn’t fit the bill for me. To me an alternative history is a book that takes the world we live in and alters some part of our history and pontificates on what could have happened. In Conquistador, Stirling gives us our world exactly as it is but add on a parallel Earth that has a few significant changes in the history. Those changes mean that the Americas were never discovered.

A portal to this parallel universe opens and John Rolfe starts his own country there in what he dubs as New Virginia. A bit of a scandal begins to unfold that threatens both worlds and sets the group of lead characters onto a path of adventure where they will encounter “wild” Native Americans and more danger than they expect.

Once you get into the novel, you truly fly through it. The plot is fast and carries you along with it. I found it easy to travel along with the characters and even easier to visualize the “New Virginia” world. The novel is a wonderful story and well worth reading. I’ll be looking for other S.M. Stirling novels to add to my reading list. Of course, that’ll have to come after Deathly Hallows. 😉

You can buy Conquistador at Amazon!

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Review: Lisey’s Story

Lisey's story by stephen KingLisey’s Story
by Stephen King

If you’ve hung around this site long enough, you might have caught on to the fact that I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s work. More his early stuff than his late stuff, but that’s just my opinion. Lisey’s (prounounced lee-cee, pet name derived from lisa) story is a novel about a woman who was married to a prolific writer. He died and now she’s struggling with some secrets that they both kept that may end up destroying her in the end. Add to that the fact that there are a few unsavory fellows that want her late husbands remaining work and you’ve got a recipe for a pretty mundane novel. Then Stephen goes to work.

Lisey finds herself reliving old memories in a “bool hunt” left by her husband. A bool hunt is a little like a treasure hunt, except twisted as only King can do. This hunt takes her to “Booya Moon”, a secret world that her husband frequently went for inspiration and nearly didn’t come back a time or two. Now Lisey must go there to save her sister and in the end, herself. And of course, there’s something dark waiting on Booya Moon for her and it may never let her go.

The reason that I like Stephen King’s earlier works more than his later works is because his later works are soft. The plot’s don’t vary all that much and the only real change is the way that King tortures his characters and brings them through it. His later works have also become much less violent macabre and more of a psychological mind f-ck kinda writing. He’s also done a little too much with characters that are aging prolific writers. Can you say soul searching?

I miss the books like IT, the Stand, and Christine. Meaty novels that are dark and twisting. Now I get novels like Lisey’s Story that, while still twisting, are near love stories. In fact, the jacket blurbs on the back even call it that.

But I digress. The book is well written as are all Stephen King novels. It has a meaty and twisting plot that is often obscured from the minds eye. It doesn’t compare to his early works, and is about middle of the pack in his more recent works. It’s an average King novel. Of course, that still means it’s better than about 75% of the fiction novels on the market.

Stephen, if you’re listing. This constant reader wants some more of the old Stephen’s work. Hell, if you don’t think you can write it anymore, maybe Richard Bachman could give it a stab.

If you want to read Lisey’s Story, you can buy it at Amazon and on eBay. You can also read more of my book reviews at my recommended reading page.

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Review: Ptolemy’s Gate

The Bartimaeus trilogy: Ptolemy’s Gate

By Jonathan Stroud

Bartimaeus trilogy Ptolemy's GatePtolemy’s Gate is the third of the Bartimaus trilogy and while it gives the trilogy a pretty fitting end, it was far from the best of the bunch.  Unlike the first two books, the role of the Djinni Bartimaeus was significantly reduced.  At least the sections of the book that were from his point of view were reduced.  His role in the story was just as much as before.  The addition of Kitty’s point of view in this book split the story into three different points of view.

I also must admit that I was a little dissapointed with the ending as well.  I won’t spoil it for you, but it certainly isn’t the rosy ending that you expect throughout the middle of the book.  Jonathan Stroud does a great job of furthering the plot of the trilogy and the general character lines.

Overall, the great writing and story were extended through the book and I wasn’t all that dissapointed with the book.  And obviously, it needed to be read once you’ve read the first two books.  I certainly would recommend the trilogy as a whole.

You can read the rest of my reviews on my Recommended reading page.

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