So I'm nearing the end of the 3rd Emberverse book and I really dislike them

Discussion in 'Alternate History Books and Media' started by Drachasor, Feb 20, 2011.

  1. Drachasor Active Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    Alternate history books can be pretty interesting, but I'm finding the Emberverse books (by Stirling) very irksome. I enjoyed the Island on the Sea of Time books. The technological aspect was pretty interesting in terms of adapting to not having the infrastructure and resources of a modern civilization. I've enjoyed other Alternate History books as well like Guns of the South (a favorite).

    I think what really annoys me about the Emberverse is how it seems there's this constant attack on modern civilization. It starts out fairly tame, but by the third books in the first trilogy people are fairly often commenting on how life is better after the Change and even some thoughts how it was a good thing. Rudi in particular is problematic for me since he is constantly thinking such thoughts. Stuff like how our history is boring and uninteresting (when I think actually it would seem fantastic and magical), and even has thoughts about how more modern buildings should just be torn down (and of course he hates any learnings like math). There's this crazy theme going on about how life is better which is then juxtaposed with the fact it ISN'T better. I believe Signe or Havel even think about how they don't remember the last time they didn't have to worry about their life being in danger.

    I decided to grab some spoilers about how the series goes and talked to my brother about it a bit, and it seems like this doesn't stop. Half the point of the books seem to be that we're going to kill ourselves or the like (though one future possibility seems like we might just transcend our humanity, which is different). The ASBs hence had a crazy plan to destroy civilization so we can learn to live better... how does that even make sense? When you examine cultures that actually lived at roughly medieval age technology for hundreds and hundreds of years (like China and Japan) you don't see any great ethical advances. In fact ethical improvements go hand-in-hand with advancing technology, generally speaking, since better tech lets us (as a society) behave better. For instance, if we developed non-lethal weapons that worked like guns, then the police would basically never kill anyone since that could be avoided. Of course, the books kind of mock this by having characters deride safety and similar concerns of the pre-change world -- which is a bit ironic perhaps, since it was life being so safe in general that allows us to worry about the little things (again, generally speaking). The whole series seems to be a giant (ham-fisted) attack on modern civilization and one of the defining characteristics of humanity; our ability to increase our understandings of the world. So, I don't think I'll read anymore after this third book...the series just kind of pisses me off to no end.

    Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

    I had hoped at first it might develop along steam-punk lines or at least look at the things that could be done with pressurized air if you were just limited to that. It would be very interesting to read some books that went over that sort of alternate history in accurate detail. Any recommendations on what books are good at that?

    PS/Edit: This is my first post here. So...err...hi!
  2. LordVetinari Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

    Nov 4, 2010
    Land of Heart Below The Great Mitten.
    I've never read them, but the main problem I had with the series, before reading them, was the fact that the change was an ASB, and affected so many disparate things. Didn't it affect steam, and internal combustion? How does something do that? If you're going to ASB something, at least explain it. Steam is not something you can just doss away as you like.
    Sorry, but I hope you do find a good read soon.
    While Turtledove is mocked here sometimes, his early stuff is good. Like the Two Georges. Just a suggestion.
  3. Drachasor Active Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    I can accept ASBs, but it can get to be too much. Affecting steam engines, pressurized gas in general, voltages, and fast chemical reactions was a bit much and made things less interesting than it could have been.
  4. jkarr Well-Known Member

    Jul 20, 2010
    what annoyed me was the complete randomness of it you said...doing away with steam and chemical reactions made no sense..specially as their produced naturally as well no matter what world there magic suddenly popped up foor no reason...and how the fuck is all this caused by nantucket being sent into the past?...cos thats what happened at the same time
  5. SavoyTruffle Going For The One

    Sep 14, 2010
    Moskau Moskau
    I'm thinking that the second biggest reason that I don't really read Alt-hist books (apart from the lack of copies where I live) is the fact that most PODs aren't exactly the most plausible.
  6. RPW@Cy Well-Known Member

    Oct 29, 2006
    He didn't do away with steam, etc. - he made it impossible to build up pressure with them (and no, I don't know if volcanos and geysers are still erupting in the emberverse). It's mde clear in the first novel at least that things like the Newcomen engine which don't rely on generating high pressures would still work. Likewise, the Stirling engine apparently till works (although IIRC it can only be used in reverse - i.e. work can be used to extract heat, but heat can't be inserted to generate work, which sounds odd).

    As for being ASB - well yes. That's the whole point of the series, and the first volume acknowledges Alison Brooks, who invented the term ASB in the first place.

    No, what put it off for me is the totally unnecessary appearance of magic, the ridiculous paganwanking (Stirling denies the series was written as a "Left Behind" for Wiccans, but it sure reads that way) and the speed with which the United States appears to disappear from popular culture and memory. In OTL European civilisation was looking back to the Roman Empire as a lost golden age for centuries fter the fall, yet in the Emberverse the USA is all but forgotten within a generation, and even those who remember life before the change don't seem to miss it. Stupid, just stupid.
  7. HellHound01 Banned

    Nov 14, 2010
    Groton, CT
    I think there was a couple of vague mentions of theories the characters had as to why it happened. Mostly centered around aliens or some such crap.
  8. Gregory Nero Arken Banned

    Dec 28, 2010
    I despise how Christianity is mocked at all times, Rudy gets whatever he wants, and considers having his posse have their republican, theocratic, and democratic governments set him up as "High King of Montival" and having everyone back home love the idea. I also don't see why the reverend who told Miss Mackenzie that witchcraft was not allowed didn't call her on her false claim that the one reference was against swearing instead of witchcraft, nor pointing to any of the other references against it. Nor the claims of the Wiccans to be able to do magic but choosing not to. Plus all of the above unifying under Rudy being a prima donna about "his cross to bear".
  9. Chairwoman Roxelana Footstool Empress

    Aug 28, 2010
    Land of Maps and Conlangs
    You know that kills the universe if such a thing were to occur.
  10. The Doctor Well-Known Member

    Jul 7, 2008
    a branch of the multiverse
    It was interesting at first but went down fast in following books, just like the 1632 books (first two good: rest not worth it). My problems were varied, but I did like the details of The Protectorate and the different groups in the local region, but not the rest of the country.
  11. thekingsguard Founder of Korsgaardianism

    Mar 28, 2010
    Virginia - near the USA-CSSA Border
    I hate how it was typical Sterling America-screw, Christian-screw, lesbain-wank, with an added dose of Wicca-wank. That and the factions... I could believe someone like the Bearkillers or CORA, but the MacKenzies or PPA? I see no way that a handful of Wiccans can grow to be a faction of a hundred thousand in twenty years. I see no way that people who had just been living in a modern democracy would allow themselves to become serfs in just a few short months. And of course, the American Death Zones were just ASB... you expect me to beleive that NOTHING east of the missisppi survived?
  12. Father Maryland Enemy of Neo Secesh Everywhere

    Jul 30, 2007
    The Grand Duchy of the Chesapeake
    Okay I think while we all have different opinions regarding the level of crappiness of the emberverse series we can all agree on just how much the hominids series sucks.
  13. Polish Eagle Resident Martian

    Apr 11, 2009
    Where the skies are so blue
    Yeah, the Wicca-wank was strangest. Doesn't it make more sense that, if all modern technology collapses, at least in the USA, people will revert to Christian Fundementalism because science, well, no longer exists, nor do all their fun toys? And wouldn't that lead to Wiccas getting burned for their paganism?

    So, yeah, it seems like Stirling's wish-fulfillment fantasy. Especially the Yank-screw. He always does a Yank-screw. Even in his acceptable-to-good works, like Peshawar Lancers.

    EDIT: The worst thing about these books is that, even if the change is reversed, humanity is fucked. All the 'easy' coal and oil are gone, so we can't reindustrialize. We'd be stuck on biomass burning until we develop Fusion, basically, because even uranium processing will be far, far more expensive ITTL.
  14. tehShifty I'm not an Eskimo!

    Sep 18, 2009

    That always confused the hell out of me. That and his copious death zones in places he doesn't want to write about. He could have at least bothered to think of a few space filling empires or whatnot to fill more of the map.
  15. Ephraim Ben Raphael Super Writer Extraordinaire Gone Fishin'

    Oct 5, 2009
    Somewhere in the Khazar Empire
    I've always felt it would make for a good redux of the Emberverse books if a more realistic society, one that looked up to the United States, viewed technology as wonderful and something to be sought after, that also drew from more advanced technology than the middle ages, ran into the the civilizations of Oregon. I'm thinking airships vs knights and chlorine gas vs. mideval infantry.
  16. Kaiphranos Hydraulic Despot Donor

    Oct 9, 2009
    Southern Hos-Harphax
    There are certainly some things that bother me about the books--Rudi himself is one of them; I find him annoyingly perfect, and worse now that he's finally got his hands on that sword. Also the rapidity with which everyone seems to go back to feudalism--I would expect some of the less-affected areas, like Iowa, to retain more of the mechanisms of a republic.

    On the other hand, I think a few of the complaints here are not quite fair--the United States of Boise certainly has pretensions of being an American successor state, and they've been re-developing enough technology to have at least one pedal-powered airship. (Not to mention the hang-gliders and whatnot, even in Oregon.) Iowa has retained credible levels of industry, and probably so have the other Midwestern states.

    And in later books, we see that parts of the East are not as dead as people seem to think; the Death Zones on the map may just be the best approximation made by the Oregon groups.

    It isn't how I would have had things shake out, but hey--when I get around to writing my own six book series, maybe I'll have room to talk. :rolleyes:

    And, worst comes to worst, I can re-read the Nantucket series again...
  17. CalBear Your Ursus arctos californicus Moderator Moderator Donor

    Oct 4, 2005
    Welcome to the Board! :)

    If you dislike the books, who did you ever get to the end of the 3rd one?:eek:
  18. Drachasor Active Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    I don't dislike everything about them. Astrid and Co. are pretty fun (though I don't think they get enough page time). Havel and the Bearkillers are fairly good. The Mckenzies aren't bad, imho, but Juniper's habit of saying something in Celtic and then in English constantly is a bit annoying. As an atheist, the religious stuff doesn't really bother me one way or another...but given that the gods screwed the world over, I think I'd prefer a more Rage Against the Heavens plot in later books.

    Like I said, what I really hate is how through various character's thoughts and statements modern society, technology, and progress are attacked. The books don't start out like this, but it gets worse and worse through the series. Rudi in particular does this often. Like I said in my OP, he even comments (in his head) on how OSU buildings should be torn down and how cities aren't natural and therefore bad. Other people have stray thoughts that really irk me in how they aren't remotely true, but Rudi has these thoughts about 10 times more often. I also know he's the main character in the next 6 books (not all of them out yet, of course). I don't want to read books with a main character like that. I might well feel differently if he had an opinion that was thought out and there were people with contrasting opinions there too, but it doesn't look like it will be that way.
  19. Drachasor Active Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    I had this in my OP:
    I had hoped at first it might develop along steam-punk lines or at least look at the things that could be done with pressurized air if you were just limited to that. It would be very interesting to read some books that went over that sort of alternate history in accurate detail. Any recommendations on what books are good at that?

    Thought I might emphasize it a bit to see if anyone had any suggestions.
  20. Mad Missouri Fountain Pen Enthusiast.

    Feb 23, 2010
    I think I've read most if not all of Stirling novels and short stories over the years. When I was younger I really enjoyed the General series, and the Man-Kinz wars. I found the Draka books a little dark to enjoy. I used to spend a lot time on the yahoo stirling forum. Right after the first DtF book came out most of the problems that have been posted here were talked about there. At that time Stirling was an active member of that site and generally refused to listen to anyone but his fanboys. From what I understand the DtF series brought a completely different kind of reader to Stirlings works and he seems to have changed his writing to keep that group. His books are no long military sci-fi, they are mainly fantasy. If you enjoy that type of book they're not that bad. If you want the Stirling from ISOT you're going to be disappointed.

    The one argument I still remember was the silly way the US military just gave up and died in the first book. Many people argued that a lot of large bases in the Midwest and West are in rural areas and should have been able to survive. He pointed out how SCA members would beat any military force because they had swords and armor and that modern military wouldn't have the skills to survive. We tried to point out that core military skills like close order drill, discipline, teamwork, and willingness to follow orders would be much harder than a group of college students whose hobby is dress up as a knight.

    Also people tried to point out that his death zones were too large by pointing out the problems a generally out of shape American urban population would have moving out of the chaos of large cities on foot pushing shopping carts or on bicycles. Imagine a fat wellfare mother of 5 or the computer tech that hasn't seen his feet in years trying to walk out of New York City through the choas of a collapsing society. I always argued that by the time most urban masses realisted the government wasn't coming to help most would already be in too poor a state to start walking into the country side and robbing framers.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2011