Review: A Meeting At Corvallis

A Meeting At Corvallis

By: S.M. Sterling

After reading The Protector’s War, I was a bit hesitant to continue on with this series of books.  But, like many a reader, I cannot stop in the middle of a series and not finish it.  Can not do it.  And I really am glad that I didn’t stop.  Unlike the rather slow, meandering second book, A Meeting At Corvallis gets right to the point.

The Protector’s War, as promised but undelivered by the second book, begins rather early on in the novel.  Sterling takes the time to explore a few other intricacies that really could have been left out, but overall does a much better job of staying on plot than he did in the second book.  And those of us who were yearning for some closure to the story do indeed get it.  Although, it probably isn’t what we all expected.  Not exactly anyways.

There are some liberties that are taken with the plot and situation resolutions, and there are the multiple ways of saying the same thing that proliferated throughout the rest of the series.  How many ways can you say that a padded hauberk is uncomfortable, but you get used to it?  Not really negatives to the novel.  More like annoyances.

Sterling does a wonderful job of dropping us right into the action of the multiple battles that take place.  He’s wonderfully descriptive with it all and I found myself “seeing” the scene as I read it.  There aren’t a whole lot of authors that have that ability with action, but Sterling manages on multiple occasions.

Most importantly, A Meeting at Corvallis falls back to the same style and speed that got me hooked in Dies the Fire.  I never felt that I was reading to get it done with and I was constantly trying to find time to read a little bit more and see what happened next.  The death of several of the main characters, while expected, didn’t seem to lend as much to the story as it should have.  In fact, it felt a lot like one of those movies where you know they left the end open for a sequel if the movie did well at the box-office.

And there are further sequels.  I don’t think that was Sterling’s intention, but it was the feeling that I came away with.  Now, I just need to get through about 5-6 more novels and find the money to buy the start of the sequel series…  The first novel in the sequel series, by the way, is The Sunrise Lands.  It takes place about 10 years after the end of A Meeting At Corvallis.  Most of the adult main characters have retired and it’s mostly the kids that have taken center stage.

Books in the Dies the Fire (Emberverse) Series:

  1. Dies the Fire
  2. The Protector’s War
  3. A Meeting At Corvallis

Review: The Protector’s War

The Protector’s War

By: S.M. Sterling

I generally wait until I’ve read the last book in a trilogy of books before I review the middle book.  Such is the case with The Protector’s War.  If I had not waited, you would now be reading about a book that meandered off from the superb plot and story of the first book and managed to lose you in a sea of medieval meanderings.  In fact, I might have encouraged you to not even read the book.

But, I did wait until I had read the last book before writing this review.  For that, you will eventually thank me.

After reading Dies the Fire, I couldn’t help but want to read the rest of the series.  Left alone, Dies the Fire has a horrible ending.  It’s only when you begin reading the following books that you really have the completed story.  With that being said, there is still a lot of excess baggage in The Protector’s War.  In fact, if I had been the editor, I would have trimmed it down far enough that the second and third books could have been merged.  It would have made for a larger book by about half again what the final book was, but the series would have been about half a book shorter.

In any case, The Protector’s War does little more than bridge the gap from Dies the Fire to the final book A Meeting at Corvallis.  I really found most of it to be excessive.  Several times, I found myself wondering why there needed to be such intricate detail for the Wiccan ceremonies.  I realize that the religion of Juniper plays a very central role in the series, but the two and three page relatings of the ceremonies could have easily been shortened by half and still conveyed the same plot points.  I failed to find the plot point at all in several cases.

I really don’t want to get to down on the book, however.  There is much of it that is necessary to the plot and to the continuation of the series.  And there are several things that happen that play rather large parts in the final novel.

I wouldn’t give the book much more than 3 and a half stars.  4 if I’m having a good day. ;)  It’s not a terrible book, but it doesn’t really serve for much more than a bridge to A Meeting at Corvallis.  If you liked Dies the Fire as much as I did, you’ll want (need) to read The Protector’s War.  It’s well worth it once you get to the final book.

Books in the Dies the Fire (Emberverse) series:

  1. Dies the Fire
  2. The Protector’s War
  3. A Meeting at Corvallis

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.