cover image A Meeting at Corvallis

A Meeting at Corvallis

S. M. Stirling, . . Roc, $25.95 (497pp) ISBN 978-0-451-46111-7

Stirling concludes his alternative history trilogy that began with Dies the Fire (2004) in high style. Some U.S. survivors of "the Change" that destroyed all modern technology just want to enjoy balanced, wholesome lives in tune with nature, such as former Marine Mike Havel's Bearkillers, who warily defend their territory in cooperation with peace-loving neighbors, especially Juniper MacKenzie's pagan clansfolk. Not far away, however, ex-history professor Norman Arminger is building a fascistic, neofeudal empire with himself as Lord Protector. The inevitable conflict builds, through layers of scheming and skirmishing, into full-scale war. Characters are cut from good quality cardboard, but the real interest lies in watching the different cultures exploring ways to solve problems. The story begins slowly, with detailed descriptions of scenery and armor. But readers will discover that the massive thing is moving after all and realize how much it resembles one of the cavalry charges the novel describes—gorgeous, stirring and gathering such earth-pounding momentum that it's difficult to resist. (Sept.)