Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling

Imagine what would happen if, following a sudden burst of blinding light, all of the electricity and explosives on the earth stopped working.  Planes would fall out of the sky, cars would crash into each other, there would be no lights, and no working appliances.  And, horror of all horrors, no computers either.  Chaos.

This “what if” situation is the plot of S. M. Stirling’s postapocalyptic novel, Dies the Fire.   He follows several groups of people including an ex-Marine Mike Havel, who leads an unlikely group of upper class athletes, engineers and Texas horse wranglers, and Juniper Mackenzie, a card-carrying Wiccan witch and her coven, through their trials and tribulations following “the change”. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a book if there weren’t an element of evil.  Never mind that the world is having major difficulties and thousands of humans have died from starvation and disease.  “The Protector”, a bona fide geek who has read too many books about medieval society, wants to take over the world and has released a group of former biker gang thugs to do his bidding.  He fancies himself as the “Lord of All” and everyone else as his underlings and serfs.  This causes havoc for Mike Havel’s gang and Clan Mackenzie.

I thought that the concept of this book was a good one.  The postapocalyptic genre is alive and well in the sci-fi department and Stirling did his research.  However, I had one major contention. 

Stirling’s obsession with all things Wiccan overtook this book in many ways.  I personally don’t care what religion he is and I don’t believe that it should have made a difference.   However, if Stirling had been Christian instead and had put as many elements and passages about that faith in his writing, “Dies the Fire” would have had an “Inspirational” label slapped on it just as fast as you can say “feudalism”.  To be fair, he did include a Bible thumping minister as one of his characters, but apparently the reverend became just too annoying and he killed him off.  So much for freedom of religion.

So, what will happen to those left in a world without electricity, where guns and ammo don’t work and your best friend is your sword?  Will there be enough food for winter?  Will there be peace on earth?  We’re only left with questions at the end of “Dies the Fire”.  Guess I’ll have to read the next book in the series, “The Protector’s War” and find out.  In the meantime, I’ll have to be more appreciative of my lights and appliances.  And, of course, my computer.

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8 thoughts on “Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling

  1. You’re going to have to build a bigger house Amy, because I also would like to come there for protection after the apocalypse (and I bet others will too)! 🙂

  2. I do not believe that Mr. Stirling is Wiccan. He mentions several people in his acknowledgements he used for information on that religion. I believe he included “the Old Religion” mostly because he thought his readers would find it more interesting and it would sell more books. And to be fair, there is a Christian Monk, Father Ignatius, who is a major character in the second trilogy set in this world.

    • Not sure if Mr. Stirling is Wiccan or not, but he was very didactic about “the Craft” in Dies the Fire. I found it to be very annoying in an otherwise decent book (ie okay, okay, we get it… Juniper is Wiccan). Didn’t read the rest of the series but might give it a try at a later date. Thanks for the comment.

  3. My own take on the “religion thing” was that a major theme of the story is that in times of severe distress as described in the book, strong personalities can affect masses of people. Mike Havel created the Bear Killers, and in later books we find out that many of them worship Norse gods. The Protectorate became entirely Catholic at Norman Arminger’s insistence. In the second trilogy of the series, we see sinister consequences of this. We also discover that, at least in the universe of Dies the Fire, that supernatural beings really are major characters in the affairs of the world. Father Ignatius is visited by the Virgin Mary, Rudy McKenzie is visited by the Horned One. Astrid Havel, through her personality and love of Tolkien, creates a group of people who speak Sandarin and follow the ways of the elves. They meet a bunch of Buddhist monks in the Rockies, who were there for a conference when the Change occurred, but since they were able to lead the local population through the chaos, everybody in the valley became Buddhists. They meet Vikings in Maine. Stirling doesn’t pick on just one religion – he gives everybody grief.

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