I've been a fan of S.M. Stirling since I read his Draka works. But in Dies The Fire, the man quite simply outdoes himself. This may be the best post-apocalyptic science fiction that I have ever read, and I've been reading this genre obsessively for over 25 years.
Maybe this will help you get a feel for exactly how good this book is: This is the first book I've ever read that gave me a case of the screaming me-me's.
I read the book at night, over a week or so (despite my intense urge to read it in a single sitting). Every time I picked it up, I could feel my blood pressure rise and my adrenal glands dumping their contents. My fight or flight reflex was triggered by this book. Writing this and thinking about the book, I can feel that clenching in the pit of my stomach.
The story is deceptively simple. A storm off Nantucket Island, a searing bright flash seen, apparently, world-wide, and then nothing. (Hey, Mr. Stirling--any chance this is what happened on the other side of Island in the Sea of Time?) Absolutely nothing. Nothing electrical works. No lights, no radios, nothing electrical at all.
"Yeah, yeah," you say, "So it's a big EMP blast. What's new with that?"
Alien Space Bats. At least that's what one of the characters calls them, when searching for an explanation for why guns and explosives no longer work. He supposes that the ASBs have changed at least a few of the laws of physics.
Any survivalist, hard core or otherwise, is now having their own case of the screaming me-me's. No guns? How do we defend ourselves from the spikey-haired mutant welfare cannibals?
Bows and arrows and cold steel. War has returned to being up-close and entirely too personal.
Time to go to the bookstore, folks. $7.99 in paperback.