Nasa / Space

Required Reading: '1632' by Eric Flint


1632 by Eric FlintBefore I discuss the book pictured at the left here, let me expose a dirty little secret of my sci-fi/fantasy book club: We hate everything. Every month, we pick a book, maybe a third of us read it, and those that do finish the tome proceed to rip it apart for not being the book they would have picked. And we didn't do that with Eric Flint's 1632. Truth be told, pretty much everybody loved it.

The premise of 1632 is a large part of its appeal. In the year 2000, a small West Virginia town is inexplicably transported to the middle of the Holy Roman Empire (AKA Germany) in 1632, smack dab in the thick of the 30 Years' War. The medieval setting gives the book a hint of fantasy, whilst the townsfolk's struggle to adapt without the infrastructure of contemporary America is somewhat sci-fi. It also brushes up against Harry Turtledove-style alternate history, but from a ground-level view of people who know how history is going to turn out (as much as high school library encyclopedias can tell them, anyway). Which is to say, it appeals to fans of many subgenres. None of that, however, accounts for what makes 1632 such a--for lack of a better term--likable book.

Eric Flint lays out the secret in his prologue, where he basically excoriates the trend in contemporary (and even classic) speculative fiction to place normal people in extraordinary circumstance and watch them fail, only to see the hero emerge and save them from themselves. In 1632, nearly the whole town of Grantville is the everyman hero, with the vast majority of the population making their peace with the timeslip, and then taking up the bluecollar task of survival. Along the way, the locals decide that 17th century European society isn't to their liking, and resolve to evangelize American-style democracy to the locals, and find themselves a heavily armed but grossly outnumbered faction fighting for survival betwixt the Spanish Inquisition, expansionist France, feudal proto-German warlords, and the piously pragmatic king fo Sweden.

The tale moves along at brisk pace, and the tone is relentlessly positive, celebrating honest, hardworking folk of two eras who come together to make a better world. In lesser hands, this would come off as jingoistic claptrap, but Flint succeeds at making the whole adventure palatable by populating his tale with thoughtful, likeable, fallible characters with well drawn motivations. While I wouldn't place 1632 on the level of great specultive literaure, it is a unabashedly fun novel that rewards the reader for his efforts. Would that more modern sci-fi novels did the same.

Not sure if 1632 is for you. Don't worry, Baen Books will let you read the first 20-odd chapters for free online. If that doesn't make you like the book, nothing will.

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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

19 comments
Wally Bahny
Wally Bahny

What order is it best to read these books in? Should the stuff authored by Eric Flint be read first, or should I mix in the Gazettes? If mixing in the Gazettes is a better option, where should they be mixed in at? I have downloaded 1632,1633, and Gazette 1 (and also have bought 1632 and 1633) and want to know what I should read next, since I'm almost done with 1632. Thanks, Wally

neilb
neilb

but it's [b]extremely[/b] pro-American. It's a splendid rollicking read - as is 1633 and The Gazette - and [b]free[/b] and I'll probably even buy the others in the in the series...maybe. But. To someone who isn't from the US of A and who doesn't necessarily fully identify with the rather stereotypical, wonderful people and rosy view on current American culture, values and so on, it does occasionally give rise to an exasperated "for pity's sake!" when I'm reading any of it. The slant on European history seems to hold up quite well, though. Neil :D p.s. Luckily, I'm a republican (small 'r') so he has the chance to get my approval rating up if he manages to get rid of that sh:t King Charles (I think he's heading that way). Interesting take on Ollie Cromwell. :)

skorekeep
skorekeep

There is so much more to 1632 than just the novels that it is difficult to describe. After the first novel was written the barflies in the Baen discussion forum started brain-storming the times they were written in Flint provided the rules, and various people went off and started researching such things as how steel is made (particularly stainless steel, vital to so much practical chemistry), period sword fighting tactics, where and how to find rubber. The list goes on and on. Then they (the barflies, just typical forum geeks) began writing stories based in 1632, the characters and their research. The result is the Grantville Gazette, a (now) bi-monthly novel-length book/magazine of both fiction and fact, and that's only one of the aspects of 1632. Try one out; at least the first is free for downloading, like 1632 itself, at baen.com. I remember trudging through this era in high school and college Western Civ, and being horrendously bored. If only I'd known then what I do now about it, I'd have erased that grading embarrassment.

tyyggerr
tyyggerr

I've read this at least a half-dozen times, and I like it every time. I think what makes it so good is that after the mysterious transportation back in time, there are no more "whiz-bang" special effects. It holds tightly true to its premise, and everything unfolds in a plausible and credible manner.

Dawson
Dawson

I think this review is spot on. It's not great literature, but it sure is fun and likeable. But beware, there are four novels in print, two more about to be printed, four anthologies in print and another seven anthologies in electronic format. It really is an alternative universe that will suck you in :)

BHunsinger
BHunsinger

Go to www.baen.com and go to the free library. the entire book is available in 5 different formats. You an also purchase the sequels, magazines and other stuff. If you like sci fi with a story, check out Baen.

Dawson
Dawson

At BAEN.com there are online forums where new stories are posted, comments made and a technical manual kept. From there here is a posting by one of the authors who is in the Gazette quite often that lists the chronology of the books: 1632 Ring of Fire - Not needed to understand the other novels. 1633 Grantville Gazettes, vols. 1-11 [see the time frames on http://www.1632.org for the dates at which individual stories occur; #11 will be available very soon] 1634: The Baltic War 1634: The Galileo Affair [can be reversed with TBW and no harm done 1634: The Ram Rebellion [can be reversed with either TBW or TGA and no harm done] 1634: The Bavarian Crisis [forthcoming, already snippeted 1635: The Cannon Law [minor snerks for TBW] The link to the story forum is: http://bar.baen.com/WB/default.asp?action=10&fid=50

LouCed
LouCed

Neil, One of the co-writers in the series is a Brit by the name of Andrew Dennis. I like his take on the religious-Italian side. Luis

skorekeep
skorekeep

I sorta hate to break it to you, Neil, but the people of Grantville are (mostly) rather unabashed "hill-billies", a social distinction placed on the descendants of mainly Scots-Irish immigrants living in rural settings, especially Appalacia. As a stereotype, they are considered rather boorish, crude, rough, unpolished, uneducated (relatively). Not your typical hero stock; perhaps more anti-hero. (I should point out here that I'm of that extraction as well). Perhaps Flint picked exactly those characteristics as very adaptable to being tossed 370 years into the past, perhaps not. Politically, you are right about the US bias; perhaps you can imagine a reason. Flint's personal politics certainly lean towards the common man. Ah, well, if you or anyone wants to continue the discussion, I'm at Lmc@Boyero.net, and I welcome it.

JeffDeWitt
JeffDeWitt

You may also like "Island in the Sea of Time" but S.M. Stirling. http://www.amazon.com/Island-Sea-Time-S-Stirling/dp/0451456750 Same basic premise, a bit of America tossed into the past, but this time its the island of Nantucket, along with the Coast Guard sailing ship Eagle and they are sent back about 3000 years. Good read and the first part of another trilogy.

DNSB
DNSB

Might I mention that the Grantville Gazette is about to go bimonthly? Who? Me? Addicted? Nah, I can stop reading the series anytime I want.

LouCed
LouCed

Go to www.baen.com, click on free library and it's a whole bunch of books in multiple formats. If you like 1632, try "Mother of Deamons" by the same author. It's also free.

Kays07
Kays07

the entire series is good fun...time-slipped into the past and the Americans get to work changing the world, along with all the others who willy-nilly find themselves in the Americans path..of course nice re-writing of history...addictive, so very!...

saday
saday

I read this book online a couple of years ago and just started it again. It's a nice way to spend a few hours relaxing.

GaryBradley
GaryBradley

In addition to the novels available for download at the Baen website, certain Baen published hardbacks contain cd's with even more titles. For instance, "At all costs", David Weber's latest addition to his Honor Harrington series, had a cd containing the entire series as well as some other titles by other authors.

Wally Bahny
Wally Bahny

Thanks for the reply. Very useful info.

neilb
neilb

There are just too many American Heroes for anyone standing outside of the game and there are precious few American Villains. The characters in the story are about as distant as you can possibly get from the "common man" as he really is. The series as a whole is quite breathtakingly patriotic - for Americans. Not being a citizen of the USA but having travelled there and met a lot of citizens, I have to say that I reckon you're much like us with the same mixture of good and evil and the same sprinkling of lazy bastards. I don't begrudge Flint his desire to pump up the standing of the "common man", but I would have appreciated a little more realism in the spread of characters. Just my thoughts. Neil :) p.s. Some of the stuff written by others around the original story is absolutely dire.

DNSB
DNSB

He's also got another series (Dies the Fire, The Protector's War and Meeting At Corvallis) which seem to be set in the current time after Nantucket was time slipped which seems to have resulted in some rather nasty changes in the laws of physics.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Where's the U.S. Confederacy getting automatic rifles? I'm not really into the format of inexplicable time hops, but if you are, you might enjoy it. Unlike the Flint or Sterling works, this looks at the concept from the viewpoint of the inhabitants of the older, less technologically advanced period.