Dies the Fire


Author: S.M. Stirling
573 Pages in Paperback

Published: August 3, 2004
Husband read in 2016

My Husband’s Rating: 4 Stars

Book Summary from Amazon:

The Change occurred when an electrical storm centered over the island of Nantucket produced a blinding white flash that rendered all electronic devices and fuels inoperable. What follows is the most terrible global catastrophe in the history of the human race-and a Dark Age more universal and complete than could possibly be imagined.


My husband recently read Dies the Fire. He said I would like it since I like post apocalyptic settings in books, movies, and tv shows. I asked him to write a review! Here is his review of Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling:

“Dies the Fire” by S.M. Stirling is the first of what has become his longest and most prolific series, Emberverse, spawning over a dozen works of long and short fiction. It is itself a spinoff of the Nantucket series, wherein an Event of unknown origin sends the modern-day island of Nantucket and its inhabitants back in time to the Bronze Age. The backlash from the Event causes an irrevocable change in the rest of the modern world, immediately rendering all forms of electricity and high-pressure combustion inert, and this is the beginning of the Emberverse tale. The power goes out, engines stop working, even gunpowder fizzles instead of exploding. The immediate effect is obvious: Death and destruction on a worldwide scale, as planes crash, hospitals go dark, and emergency workers are left with less than basic first aid equipment to work with. Within weeks there is only a fraction of the world’s population left, and the survivors fight each other for the scraps.

That sounds like the setup for an amazing post-apocalyptic story, and for the most part it is. The world of Emberverse is scary, thrilling, and sad, while the story of the protagonists gives a feeling of hope and accomplishment. Unfortunately for the reader, the author relies too heavily on coincidence and chance meetings (an award winning horse trainer from Texas in the middle of the Idaho mountains *just* when our male protagonist needs him most, followed shortly by an expert archer/bowyer/fletcher with a British SAS background conveniently dangling from a tree for our female protagonist to find and rescue) and explains it away with one throwaway line about how only the most skilled and hardy folk will survive such an event. Certainly they will, but the fact that they all happen to be within a few hours’ walk of each other is a ton of disbelief to suspend.

Despite the cheeky deus ex machina in nearly every chapter, Stirling manages to weave an epic tale of medieval adventure set in the beautiful but daunting Pacific Northwest wilderness. He isn’t shy about inspiration from Tolkien, given one minor character’s obsession with the world of Middle-Earth, and there is an obvious “good versus evil” element to the plot. But the true enemy in this world is the depravity of Man and just how terrible people can be when they are forced to take on nature without modern luxuries. There is also a deep exploration of female protagonist Juniper Mackenzie’s Wiccan faith with great attention to detail and accuracy. Granted, her faith just happens to be extremely useful to surviving such an event, but nonetheless it shows Stirling’s penchant for research and realism in his writings.

Readers of this book will immediately recognize the influence it has had on more modern post-apocalyptic tales. The male protagonist, Mike Havel, is a blueprint for characters like Jake Green from the television show Jericho and Miles Matheson from Revolution. Indeed, Revolution seems to borrow the vast majority of its concept, plots, and characters from “Dies the Fire”, including some scene-for-scene remakes and Matheson aping Havel’s dark, witty sense of humor. One can even see some influence on the “Walking Dead” comics (and by extension, the television show), again with scenes that appear to be lifted directly from Stirling’s work.

Overall I would say it’s a great, fun, though often dark read, but the reader must be prepared for a little eye-rolling when the main characters win nearly every hand dealt to them with a wink and a shrug.