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Dies the Fire


S. M. Stirling
Tolkien wouldn't have been proud


A long time ago, in an age before the discovery of girls, I used to play a game called Dungeons and Dragons. Delicious fun, you could run around with dwarves and battle the dragons of imagination. Puberty hit and destroyed most of the magnetism of the game. Still, a small minority of players soldiered on, piling up hit points and exploring the make-believe lands of wherever. You would see them around the school, pale wraiths wolfing down Cheetos and making their own chain-mail when not learning the Language of the Elf.

The voice of this book is one of those people. Everything that gets in the way of a medieval world is rendered inoperable by the god of the novel. Electricity, guns, steam engines, and numerous other devices won't/can't/don't work. We're back to catapults and swords, lances and horses. This is a world where they end up drinking not water or even beer, but -- yes, that's right -- mead.

While in the beginning the main protagonist is a comic-book version of a Special Forces soldier, by novel's end the hero is a new age, earth mother, Wicca woman. She spouts Gallic and commands the troops in the fight against the tyranny of The Protector. The whole good against evil plot mirrors the Kevin Costner film "The Postman."

The writing is OK at a workman level, but the vast number of improbabilities and deus-ex-machina happenings make the story more boring than it should be. Unless you are a fascinated by the medieval lifestyle or happen to be fan of Wicca, you can probably spend your reading time better elsewhere.

If you are older than 14 and still playing Dungeons and Dragons, this is the book you've been waiting your whole life to read.