Stirling has one basic storyline that he likes to tell over and over. Something bad happens to the world where people are forced to live before the invention of many modern conveniences. Chaos ensues and the nerds who spent a lot of time learning to build trebuchets have the last laugh. That’s a bit of an overgeneralization but I’ve read four of his books so far and it’s mostly accurate. That is not to say that these books aren’t engaging, just to say that they have similarities. In this book something happens to make all electric engines die AND all gunpowder and explosives stop working, oddly. This means that all planes in the air the instant the event occurs crash, fires start, people freak out. The new world has all new priorities, mainly food and how to feed people living in close quarters in the cities while all the fertile farmland is in the outer areas.
There are mass die-offs and plague and cholera spread. Some people go bad. Stirling always has some despicable characters and in this book that are groups of people known as “eaters” who turn to cannnibalism and allow for the books gorier moments. Mostly we follow two groups of people, a pagan clan/coven in the Oregon area, and a pilot/natural leader guy whose small plane goes down as he’s bringing people into rural Montana. We follow them as they try to set up thriving cultures amid the chaos and fight the bad guys such as the weird food-hoarding lords who are trying to amass land and acolytes in the Pacific Northwest region. This is probably my favorite of all of Stirling’s books mainly because it deals with small scale conflicts and fighting [there is always fighting in his books] and not large scale tactical maneuverings between armies which I find more of a snore.