Book #6 on my 2017 Reading Challenge list is: a book set in your hometown/region. For this, I chose to read Dies the Fire, by S. M. Stirling. Set in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, it is practically in my back yard.
The story opens an hour before a catastrophic world-altering event that renders electricity, vehicles and even guns useless. The book follows a handful of main characters as they struggle with the aftermath of such an event, two groups in particular.
One, led by Juniper McKenzie – a musician and Wiccan – head into the hills outside Corvallis. Here they begin to dig in and plan for a drastically altered future. A future where survival has become the only priority.
The other group is led by Mike Havel, a former marine who has been making his living flying wealthy tourists into the backwoods of Idaho. He is flying with his most recent charge when the Change occurs, and he is forced to bring the now dead plane down as safely as can be managed. Out in the middle of nowhere he and the family – the Larssons – with him are unaware that this was not an isolated incident.
And so begins the journey to a new (old?) reality. Juniper, Mike and all the others battle against fires from planes that fell from the sky, the chaos of cities plunged into the dark ages without electricity, and rural communities ill-equipped to operate without the benefits of machinery. New horrors emerge as well such as the Protector of Portland – a man bent on claiming his place in this new world through force and intimidation. They face cannibalism, the plague and brutal warfare, things most people in America today would never imagine having to face.
Stirling writes his tale with brutal realism. Though the initial premise of the story is a little far fetched, and the cause of “The Change” is never explained, the actions taken by the characters after the event are well thought through. The things they have to endure are horrifyingly plausible. That these things are happening in places I know makes it even more chilling. It is a well-written book and I enjoyed it a lot. I’m looking forward to picking up book two, The Protector’s War.
If you’re into alt-history novels at all, this is a great series. If you’ve read it already, I’d love to hear your thoughts.