The Scourge of God by S. M. Stirling
The Scourge of God is book 2 of ‘The Sunrise Lands’ series (Also known on the author’s website as ‘Emberverse II’) or ‘The Change’ as it’s known in the UK. This is actually the second series set in a version of the current world that changed in on March 17th, 1998 when the world as we knew it, just ceased. Electricity stopped working. Internal Combustion stopped working. Planes fell out of the sky, cars crashed, high gas pressures stopped being possible, and explosives and gunpowder just don’t work right any more. Basically Armageddon came and things were never, ever the same again.
In the first series, consisting of Dies the Fire, The Protector’s War, and A Meeting at Corvallis it told the story of the Change itself and how the people of Willamette Valley of Oregon, and a few other select places make it through into a new world and a new/old take on civilization. Wars included.
This second series starts 22 years after the change. There’s now a new generation that has never known a world other than the Post-Change one. And there are old powers, thought to be myths and legends that seem to be returning to the world. If that is through the belief of the people in the world, or through something ‘other’ is never really clear.
In book 1, The Sunrise Land, we are introduced to the mostly grown up versions of the children of the characters we followed in the first series. And there has been a man, by the name of Ingolf Volgeler, who has traveled from out near the Mississippi, into the ‘Dead Lands’ of the East Coast to the island of Nantucket, where he saw ..something.. and became driven to go west. However he also got captured and abused along the way by the servants of the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) before he escaped. He got to Mackenzie land, driven by dreams and visions that just wouldn’t leave him alone. And there was nearly killed by men/priests/assassins hired/sent by CUT to get him and stop him.
Ingolf’s visions come to the attention of the Mackenzie clan’s leader, Juniper Mackenzie, and her son Rudi. And one thing leads to another and a QUEST is discerned to be the meaning of the visions. And Rudi, Ingolf, Edain Aylward (son of Sam Alyward, a former member of the UK Special Air Service that had been hunting in Oregon when the change happened, and is source of superior archery and bows that the Mackenzies make) – and his half-mastiff dog, Mathilda Arminger (princess and heir to the Portland Protective Association (PPA)), Odard Liu (now Baron of Gervais in the PPA), Alex (a servant of Odard’s), Ritva and Mary Havel (twin daughters of the heads of The Bearkillers and Dunedain Rangers), and Father Ignatius (a sword-brother from Mount Angel) make up the classical Nine for a Quest. (Just ask Astrid, the head of the Dunedain Rangers.. she’s obsessed with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Yes, she’s nuts. But it’s a GOOD sort of nuts that has helped folks survive and even excel.)
The company of the Quest headed off to go to Nantucket in quest of the ‘Sword’ seen by Ingolf. In book one Alex betrays them to the CUT and we are sort of mostly left at that point to wait for this book.
Naturally, the party gained a new member at the end of the 1st book, one Frederick Thurston, the youngest son of the President of the United States of America (Boise). I won’t spoil the end of the 1st book by saying how or what happens, only in that in this book he replaces Alex to make the Party one of Nine members once more. The party is all reunited at the beginning of this book and their journey continues to the East, always chased by the forces of CUT that fanatically want them to fail in this Quest.
I keep trying to figure out how to describe the contents of this book without providing spoilers, as it is only in hardback right now, so many won’t be reading it until it reaches paperback. But lets just say that their journey takes them to a Monastery high in the mountains, down into the plains of the Neo-Sioux and into the Provisional Republic of Iowa. No, they don’t make it to Nantucket in this book. There’s just too many things that have to HAPPEN first. But they DO make it to the Mississippi. But beyond that is left to the next book.
The storytelling in this book is rich, and while it does skip back to Mackenzie lands and the happenings there some, the real focus is on the party of adventurers and their growth, both as persons and as legends-to-be. There are changes to go through, and the evil of CUT is just getting worse. But it becomes clear that there is a heck of a lot going on here than just nine people heading across a very, very, very changed North America. There are powers arising, both political, social and spiritual. There are lessons to be learned, wisdom to be imparted, friends to discover, and enemies to collect. It is in every way a story of adventure, and the sort of things that will shape the future of at least these nine adventurers, and perhaps all of the people that they encounter.
The writing is the sort that makes you to not want to really put it down. You feel like you are there with the characters, riding beside Rudi and living through the happenings with him. I recommend this book, and all of S. M. Stirling’s work. You don’t need to read the first series to enjoy this one, be it really helps to do so. Heck, you can even read most, if not all of the text of the first series on line at the author’s own website that I linked above. If you like well written stories, you’ll enjoy these.
The next book in the series will be The Sword of the Lady expected around September of this year.
Next book on my ‘reading’ queue is The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox. I have NO idea what to expect from this book. I’m just trying a new author with books labeled as ‘Paranormal Romance’. We’ll see what I think.