The Scourge of God (novel)
|Author||S. M. Stirling|
|Series||The Emberverse series|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|September 2, 2008|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|Preceded by||The Sunrise Lands|
|Followed by||The Sword of the Lady|
The Scourge of God (2008) is an alternate history, post-apocalyptic novel by S. M. Stirling. It is the fifth book in the Emberverse series. The novel continues the journey of Rudi Mackenzie and his companions as they travel across the former United States, a generation after "The Change" killed off technology and plunged the world into a new Dark Age, on their quest to Nantucket where rumor says The Change originated. The novel's title comes from the title Sethaz gave himself at the end of The Sunrise Lands:
I am the Scourge of God. If you had not sinned greatly, He would not have delivered you into my hands.
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Rudi Mackenzie and company stage a rescue of Mathilda Arminger, Odard Liu, and Ingolf Vogeler from High Seeker Kuttner. They manage to free their companions and kill Kuttner, but not before he becomes possessed and almost strangles Rudi. Following their victory, Frederick Thurston decides to travel with Rudi to Nantucket instead of staying in Boise to fight his brother Martin Thurston.
Back in Twin Falls, the Prophet Sethaz orders High Seeker Twain and Major Graber to kill Rudi. Rudi meanwhile comes upon a group of Mormon rebels, including Rebecca Nystrup and her brother. They join up with Rudi and reach the Deseret town of Picabo, now occupied by Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT). Ingolf, Rudi, Edain Aylward, and Odard pose as slavers, with Rebecca acting as one of their slaves, in an effort to infiltrate the town. In order to preserve their cover, however, Edain is forced to attempt to shoot an apple off of Rebecca's head. He misses, killing her. Ingolf's plan goes off the night before the CUT forces leave but it is interrupted by Graber, who wounds Rudi. Ingolf manages to lead the party to safety while the Mormon rebels go into the wilds.
Still chased by Graber, Rudi's company attempts to find a place they can hole up so Rudi can heal. While unconscious, Rudi has an out-of-body experience in which Odin tells him he will not die of his wounds but instead will die in an act of self sacrifice for his people. Ritva Havel is ambushed by a CUT scout while hunting. Ritva barely defeats him; in return for his life, he warns her that High Seeker Twain has captured her twin sister Mary. Ritva rescues Mary and kills Twain, but not before Mary loses an eye. The whole company is later discovered by a group of Buddhist monks and they winter in their monastery. While at the monastery, Ignatius receives a vision from Mary telling him to look after Mathilda.
After leaving the monks, the company is joined by Virginia Kane. As the group enters Sioux territory, they are greeted by Sioux chief Red Leaf and his soldiers who demand that they leave. However, Virginia is the daughter of a prominent local rancher who was Red Leaf's blood brother. Her father was killed by a rival and his CUT allies. For Virginia's sake, Red Leaf gives the group sanctuary, but they run into the group of ranchers chasing her, along with Major Graber. Graber and Rudi fight; Rudi is victorious, but spares Graber. The ranchers and the CUT are driven away after the two forces accidentally upset some lions. Rudi and his group stay with Red Leaf's tribe, but leave just before Graber returns with reinforcements. With the help of Red Leaf's son, they manage to get on the other side of a huge stream of migrating buffalo, thus losing Graber.
Rudi and company make it to Iowa and, thanks to Ingolf's connections with a local influential farmer, are able to make it to Des Moines, where they hope to finance a trip into the eastern deathlands. The group, however, is ambushed by the State Police. Rudi, Ingolf, Mathilda and Odard are captured. It appears that the Bossman of Iowa is angry with Ingolf for not completing a salvaging expedition he had paid for into the eastern Death zones. Rudi volunteers to retrieve the goods that were abandoned in Illinois. The Bossman agrees on the condition that Rudi must do it alone in one month.
As Rudi continues his quest, events back in Oregon come to a boil. The leaders of the Meeting agree that the CUT threat is too great to ignore. They decide to attack Pendleton. An army is formed, led by Astrid Larsson with Lady Tiphaine as second in command. As the army marches toward Pendleton, Astrid leads a black op to capture the Bossman of Pendleton and his family. With the help of a spy in the service of Sandra Arminger, Astrid, Eilir Mackenzie, Alleyne Loring, John Hordle and other members of the Rangers, sneak into the city and get access to the Bossman's palace. Meanwhile, BD, a merchant in the service of the Meeting, gets invited to a party the Bossman is throwing. While there, she sees that both President Thurston and Sethaz are present along with soldiers from their respective nations.
Astrid captures the Bossman and his family, but Sethaz incites the crowd to attack the Rangers, who are forced to flee with only the Bossman. Tiphaine is able to rescue them but Astrid has been injured and has to cede command of the army to Tiphaine. Thanks to a traitor from Boise, Tiphaine knows she is outnumbered by the combined forces of Boise, CUT, and Pendleton. She attempts a fighting retreat in an effort to buy time for the infantry to escape. Chuck Barstow, commander of the Clan Mackenzie forces, is killed during the battle. He awakens in an idyllic afterlife. The Bearkillers' commander Eric Larsson loses his hand and almost his life except for quick action by Mike Havel Jr., but the army succeeds in breaking contact with the enemy.
Back home, the Mackenzies and Bearkillers mourn their dead. Oak vows in front of Juniper Mackenzie to not rest until the killers of his father are defeated. At Larssdalen, Mike Jr. is promoted to the rank of A-lister and is offered the position of his late father, Lord Bear. He respectfully declines saying he has much to learn before he can accept.
Characters in The Scourge of God
Literary significance and reception
Generally reviews have been good for Scourge. Harriet Klausner was quoted as saying: "Fans will remain enthralled once the shock lets up as the tale is filled with action, strong characters in conflict, vivid descriptions of a battered dying land trying to come back to life two plus decades since the Change, and a great cliffhanging climax.". Publishers Weekly said of the novel: "Stirling eloquently describes a devastated, mystical world that will appeal to fans of traditional fantasy as well as post-apocalyptic SF." The review on Monsters and Critics praised Stirling for vividly describing the political landscape of his fictional world while also declaring Rudi to be satisfyingly multifaceted. A reviewer from the Baltimore Science Fiction Society called the novel "a fun post apocalypse quest story with a twist." Kel Munger from the Sacramento News and Review said the novel was "surprisingly good." Bill Lawhorn of SFRevu said "I liked this book...Stirling is a master of world building. This series has gone a long way from its point of departure, but still keeps a horde of fans wanting more." The Historyguy Book Review said "Stirling’s Scourge of God is a very good continuation of his Change books. The heroes are heroic, the villains are evil and worthy of killing, and the newly developing societies that Rudi and his fellowship encounter are interesting, spiritual in their own unique ways, and actually quite logical, given the circumstances of the Change." 
References to other works
- When Rudi introduces himself to the Bossman of Iowa he says “Rudi Mackenzie, tanist of the clan Mackenzie" and the Bossman replies “There can be only one.” This is a reference to Highlander. Tanist is a term for the second-in-command or popularly agreed upon heir in Gaelic culture and polity that alsoappears in several fictional and non-fictional works set in Ireland and Highland Scotland, especially the Isles.
- BD originally appeared in the Emberverse fan fiction The Bonds of Kinship (2006) by Kier Salmon and Tarl Neustaedter, before appearing in The Scourge of God.
- Stirling, S.M. (2007). The Sunrise Lands. New York: Roc. p. 453. ISBN 0451461703.
- Harriet Klausner (2008). "The Scourge of God Review". Book Review. Scifi-Fantasy-Info.com. Archived from the original on October 1, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-09.
- "Fiction Reviews". Book Review. Publishers Weekly. 2008-07-28. Archived from the original on August 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-09.
- Sandy Amazeen (2008-09-19). "Book Review: The Scourge of God". Monsters and Critics. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- Dale Arnold. "The Scourge of God Review". Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
- Munger, Kel (June 2, 2009). "6/2/09 Book log". Sacramento News and Review. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
- Lawhorn, Bill (September 2, 2008). "The Scourge of God: A Novel of the Change by S.M. Stirling". Book Review. SFRevu. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- "HistoryGuy Book Review". 2009-12-29. Retrieved 2009-12-29.
- Kallam, Clay (February 1, 2009). "Review: Stirling's slips into fantasy for 'Scourge' and stubs his toe". Book review. San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2009-02-02.
- "Hardcover Fiction Best Sellers". Best Sellers List. New York Times. 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
- "This week's top 150 best sellers". Best Sellers List. USA Today. 09/07/2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. Check date values in:
- S. M. Stirling (2008). "THE SCOURGE OF GOD: Acknowledgements". Roc. Retrieved 1 December 2008.