Monday, July 13

A Meeting at Corvallis - SM Stirling

It's Change Year Nine, and the Portland Protectorate are becoming bolder in their attacks on Bearkiller and Clan Mackenzie territory. At the same time the newly independent Dunedain Rangers, headed by anamchara Astrid and Eilir, have captured a PPA raider who they want to try in the neutral university town of Corvallis. Aware that the only way they can face down Norman Arminger, the PPA's powerful Lord Protector, with any success is by banding together with the other free states, Lord Bear Mike Havel and Juniper Mackenzie join the Rangers on a trip to convince Corvallis to unite against their common foe. After all, with the proof of unauthorised incursions present in the form of the captured raider, Corvallis will no longer be able to turn a conveniently blind eye to the very real threat the PPA poses.
Still in possession of the Lord Protector's daughter, Matilda, the leaders sally forth, only to become reacquainted with the maxim that the enemy's plan can trip your own plan up - the Protector's wife Sandra is also in Corvallis, to present her side, and is accompanied by her private servant Tiphaine, an assassin. The Corvallis Faculty Senate inexplicably continue to be willfully blind, the proof is assassinated, Matilda is recaptured along with Juniper's son Rudi, and war seems certain.
The third in the Change trilogy, it is a testament to the depth and scope of Stirling's writing that reading this plot summary will not significantly affect the pleasure or surprise of reading A Meeting at Corvallis - there's so much going on and so neatly intertwined are the threads that reading this quite substantial book was an unalloyed pleasure. The narrative switches from one group (Bearkillers, Clan, Rangers, Protectorate) to another with rapidity,
I was a little less annoyed, this time around, with the broadly portrayed Aussie Hugo Zeppelt, in no small part because of the following passage:
"It's the Unspeakable Antipodean," Signe said with a mixture of sarcasm and goodwill. Zeppelt's Australian drawl was as rasping as ever. "Hi Zeppo."
"Still a bit of a figjam, eh?" He laughed back at her. "And grinning like a big blond shot fox, my Lady Signe is."
"Dinner's ready, I hope?"
"Fair dinkum, no fear, "Zeppelt said. "On the bloody table, and it's grouse tucker."
"Did you ever talk like that in Oz?" Havel said curiously, dismounting and tossing the reins to a groom.
"Why, that would have been superfluous considering the culture context, would it not?" Zeppelt replied in dulcet tones.
Well thank god for that! the dialogue is crisp and amusing, the characters interesting and rounded, and the plot absorbing. Most interesting to me is the way that Stirling addresses the question of what happens after a significant devastation on an established society. This is the subject of a number of classic novels, from Watership Down to Day of the Triffids, from The Handmaid's Tale to The Gate to Women's Country and of course beyond. Oft explored, never stale, Stirling's perspective is rich and interesting, and he combines a number of affects in one large-scale whole. - Alex

The Emberverse novels of the change:
Dies the Fire
2. The Protector's War
3. A Meeting at Corvallis
4. The Sunrise Lands
The Scourge of God
The Sword of the Lady
7. The High King of Montival

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