Great premise. Awesome title. Terrible execution. I can usually slosh my way through even bad or boring books, but I couldn't finish this one.
The main bad guy is a completely absurd history professor/LARPer who takes over all the gangs and begins murdering, enslaving, and raping at will to build a little medieval-style kingdom for himself. All technology not working? Gunpowder not exploding? I'll accept. This fool not being brutully killed very early after "The Change" as a result of his attempts to seize power? I will not accept.
Between that guy, Juniper's CONSTANT "Goddess this!" and "Goddess that!", the Lord of the Rings wannabes, and the incredibly convenient way people with specialized skill sets would show up, I just couldn't take it. This book read like a Ren Faire enthusiast's wet dream.
Make that a MALE Ren Faire enthusiast. Although I know that rape is common now and would probably be more common in a lawless post-apocalyptic world, I'm tired of it being used as a shorthand for "look here's a bad guy", particularly the way Stirling presents it. I read "Island in the Sea of Time" (hated it too, but decided to give the author another chance since the premise was so interesting) and his treatment of women and rape there was problematic as well; the jaguar scene is so vomit-worthy that I don't think I could even attempt to review that book. Women who aren't lucky enough to be main characters are usually there to be rape fodder and display how awful one of the bad guys is or further the plot development for a male character. I don't think I could stomach another work by this author due to this issue.