As the third book in the first trilogy, you expect the stakes to be raised. War, definitely. Probably some of the characters we know and love dying. Political intrigue, more fun weapons and farming hacks from these people still adapting to a changed world.
I was a little disappointed at first when everything seemed to jump around a bit. There are a lot of storylines here that all have to converge together, and thankfully Stirling does a pretty good job juggling them. It’s a far cry from the first book, which made you fall in love with Mike and with Juney. But all the players in this third book are important, and the different plot lines converge in an epic climax.
There is a nice sort of interlude at times, when we’re following Rudi Mackenzie. His scenes are less action-packed—three or four characters at once instead of everyone on a battlefield fighting a war. It makes sense, having read the next trilogy, that Stirling would want to take time to develop Rudi and get readers interested in him. He’s a fun character, and I like him while he’s still a kid in this first trilogy, full of a pure, childlike wisdom that makes him intriguing.
A Meeting at Corvallis is an epic finish to the Mike/Juney storylines, so if they are the only reason you’re reading the books you probably don’t want to move on to read The Sunrise Lands. If, however, you love Rudi Mackenzie and want to see a lot more of him, you should read what they dub the Emberverse II books (sort of a sequel series to the initial trilogy). If you like Stirling’s writing, it’s worth it to keep reading the books. And if you’re Pagan, it’s even more worth it. Rudi lives his Paganism in a way that Juniper Mackenzie could only dream of, since Rudi was born into a world where Paganism was one of the major religions, except an eccentric oddball religion that many people considered cult-like.