George V. Reilly

Review: A Meeting at Corvallis

A Meeting at Corvallis
Title: A Meeting at Corvallis
Author: S.M. Stirling
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Roc
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 497
Keywords: spec­u­la­tive fiction
Reading period: 26-27 February, 2007

In Dies the Fire, the first book of the trilogy, the "Change" instantly and per­ma­nent­ly disabled elec­tric­i­ty, high-powered chemical reactions, and explosives, plunging mankind back into the Dark Ages. Ninety percent of the planet’s population died in the first year, mostly from disease, starvation, or murder. Dies the Fire follows several groups that form in Oregon’s Willamette valley, including the Clan Mackenzie and the Bear­killers.

The second book, The Pro­tec­tor’s War, took place nine years later. The tyrannical Protector of Portland and his feudal barons start to provoke war against the trou­ble­some groups to their south.

In A Meeting at Corvallis, full war finally breaks out, pitting the free-minded Mackenzies, Bear­killers, and their neighbors against the neo-medieval Portland Protective As­so­ci­a­tion.

Stirling is well-known both for alternate history and mil­i­taris­tic SF. Here he trans­plants the Dark Ages onto twen­ty­first century America. Post-apoc­a­lyp­tic, but through no fault of our own. Some characters jokingly ascribe the mystery of the Change to Alien Space Bats for want of a better ex­pla­na­tion.

Stirling enjoys his battles and works in plenty of them. Gunpowder doesn’t work, so they have to be fought the hard way, with swords, bows, pikes, cavalry, and catapults. For all the militarism, he has several sym­pa­thet­ic lesbian and gay characters, and the Clan Mackenzie are Wiccans.

A graffito on a wall in Corvallis sums it up: Help, I’ve fallen into the RenFaire and I can’t get out!

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