Monday, November 20, 2006

Book: Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling

Fair warning: this is going to be less a book review than a confessional.

I typically try to keep a very open mind when reading books, especially when I'm reading a post-apocalyptic adventure novel - my favorite SF genre. So I grabbed Dies the Fire from an online recommendaton with a bevy of other books using a birthday gift certificate, because it was post-apocalyptic and sounded like an interesting premise: some sort of electrical disturbance basically puts everyone back a few hundred years, before electricity and steam. Breakdown of society, people coming together, evil enemy army, and so forth. Sure, sounds like a decent read.

The plot breaks into two arcs: rugged bush pilot flying wealthy family to remote Idaho, and Wiccan acoustic guitar playing single mother in small Oregon college town.

The pilot plot was OK I guess. But boy howdy, the other character's plotline was awful.

Maybe it's just because I've spent so much time around those folks, but in the first twenty pages the Wiccan was casting spells, remarking about how her friend who fought in the SCA and made fine weapons for Ren Faires would always stand by her side, and just generally reminded me of the worst parts of some GenCon attention whore, I put the book aside.

OK, I didn't. I skipped around. I read the end (a habit most people would cruicify me for if offered the chance, but fuck 'em, the journey is more important than the destination for me.) And the samples I found were an annoying and shitty as the first twenty pages. So this one landed on the pile that's going to Half Price the next time I'm taking a load down there.

Does that make me a bigot? Maybe. I tried to think how I would respond if the character were, say, a Muslim or a Christian. Would I be equally as annoyed by a Christian character making signs of the cross and quoting scripture? As much as I wish I could say "yes, that would equally annoy me," I know the answer is "no, not really." I have some personal feelings about Wicca and some - not all, but some - people who choose to practice that faith that color my personal judgement in this regard. But even that is a counterfeit argument - I have feelings about Christians as well, and not all of them very positive. But why my personal negative - and somewhat irrational - response to this character?

I guess the answer is, "I don't know." Maybe it is a little bit of bigotry, because it seems based largely on my personal disdain for some practitioners of the faith rather than the religion itself (as far as I'm concerned, religions are pretty much equal, with the exception of Scientology.) It's hard to explain. And maybe I don't have to.

I wish I could have kept reading, because Stirling penned some really tight prose. The pilot's plotline especially just rocked and rolled along, and I wanted to read more, just to see what happened next - not a bad thing. Seth mentioned that Stirling wrote some historical fiction, so I might try to track down a copy of that, just to give the author another shot.

If you really want to read Dies the Fire, there's a link to I can't really recommend it though.

1 comment:

S.M. Stirling said...

That's fair enough. Some books just don't ring one's chimes, regardless of how well they're written. Such is life.

I've got other stuff you might enjoy, without Wiccans. "Island in the Sea of Time", for example.

Well, there's a brief appearance by some Wiccans, but they're idiots and get eaten by cannibals.