Top positive review
60 people found this helpful
Gripping and thought-provoking tale deepens & widens
on 16 September 2005
This is the second in the trilogy that began with Dies the Fire (now available in paperback). It is now several years since a mysterious outside force (arbitrarily advanced aliens, the Powers, God? - no-one knows) subtly tweaked local physical constants and laws on Earth to take modern technology, from gunpowder and guns to electricity and engines, away from humanity. The dust is stating to settle after the catastrophic collapse of civilization into chaos and cannibalism,and for over 95% of humanity within months death from famine, violence and disease, which this Change brought. Across the luckier parts of the planet, new societies are starting to crystallise around enclaves of those survivors who managed to survive without sinking into savagery. The Protector's War is painted on a wider canvas, showing what happened in the rest of the World after the Change. As well as what the Change actually did to make our modern world suddenly impossible.
In the US Pacific Northwest, we meet again some of those surviving enclaves whose establishment in the first desperate months after the Change we followed in Dies the Fire. The semi-feudal Bearkillers, led by tough, competent former US Marine Mike Havel, the Wiccan Clan Mackenzie, under the chieftainship of former folk singer and neopagan priestess Juniper Mackenzie, Corvallis, organised around its University, the traditional Catholic monks of Mt. Angel and the ruthless faux-mediaeval feudal despotism of ex-history professor and medieval combat re-enactor, now Lord Protector, Norman Arminger and his ex-crime-gang and SCA henchpeople, based in the ruins of Portland, Oregon.
Meanwhile, in England swift, decisive action when the Change struck by a group of senior military officers,whilst the politicians dithered and then died, saved some of the Royal family and a nucleus of a few hundred thousand survivors based on the Isle of Wight. But now matters have come to a head between King Charles III and one of his top Army commanders as the King sinks into increasingly autocratic eccentricity. Whilst another surviving enclave of civilization, Tasmania, has recovered sufficiently to despatch a three-masted schooner on a survey voyage around the Changed world.
S.M. Stirling weaves these disparate threads into a gripping tale of action, adventure, flashes of humour and webs of intrigue. Buttressed by solid research and sustained, logical and intelligent extrapolation of the likely technological, social, cultural and other consequences of taking our species' technological toys away. Consequences for ordinary and not so ordinary people dropped into a suddenly extraordinary world. You don't have to have read the first volume of this trilogy to enjoy this one. Although after reading it you will probably want to. And you'll certainly be waiting eagerly for the final volume, due out next year. But you'll still enjoy The Protector's War for itself.
British readers will especially enjoy the substantial scenes set in the bizarre and yet eerily familiar land that is England eight years after the Change. Woburn Abbey turned into a prison guarded by axe-wielding Icelanders, Milton Keynes sinking in a sea of bramble and scrub, whilst knights joust beside Junction 14 of the M1 and former SAS troops battle cannibal bands with bow and sword in the ruins of Newport Pagnell. Tigers, wolves and hippos escaped from safari parks and zoos prowl the limits of a cultivated zone slowly being hacked from the scrub, thorn and returning wilderness of the Home Counties by English survivors augmented by refugees shipped in on surviving sailing ships from Iceland, the Faeroes and the isles off Scotland.
Readers everywhere will enjoy a well-told, intelligently thought-out tale by a writer who is increasingly being compared by critics with the late Poul Anderson (than which, in my view, there is no higher praise!) The whole scenario takes on a sinister contemporary relevance in the light of recent TV footage from the ruins of New Orleans. It is a pity this book and its predecessor in the trilogy are hard to get hold of in British bookshops - which is another reason to be thankful for Amazon!