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The scourge of god by S.M. Stirling book review

The scourge of god by S.M. StirlingIf you aren’t familiar with the Emberverse series, the Nantucket section dumps the island of Nantucket into the bronze age, while the Dies the Fire part takes away most modern technology including gunpowder and electricity. It doesn’t make any sense, but it gives Stirling a chance to drag everyone into medieval times. And in this second phase, it’s no longer Science Fiction, but straight up fantasy.

There’s an anointed hero, villains with demonic powers and a magical sword. Every power structure becomes dynastic. The one exception in President Thurston’s Idaho quickly turns back into dynastic rule, when he’s assassinated by his son. Everywhere there is nothing but serfs and lords, with the limited exception of the Wiccans. Like every other book in the series, there’s lots of Wiccan crap here, and by that I mean prayers, rituals and songs. But there’s also a decent amount of adventure.

The Emberverse is a franchise by now, and scourge of god continues the second phase of the series as Rudi and his friends journey east in search of a sword, while being pursued by a Cutter cult that’s like a cross between the Unabomber and Islam. In the second phase, the Wiccan stuff isn’t just a sidebar, there are actual demons who possess the cult members and Rudi gains his own superpowers. Along the way, the nine encounter local color, including Mormons, a Tibetan Buddhist temple, Sioux Indians and Des Moines as the biggest city of the new world.

As befits a middle book in a fantasy series, things get dark and grim. Rudi’s first attempt to rescue a captive Mormon settlement goes down badly and kills most of the women and almost gets him killed too. One of the Rangers loses an eye. The story is uneven after the aborted rescue attempt, with too much color, an implausible Buddhist town, and a journey whose only real purpose is to drag things out until the end of the book. And the book ends on another cliffhanger, with some of the nine again in custody, and Rudi on his own.

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