1632 by Eric Flint
Mass Market Paperback - 608 pages (February 2001) (previous hc publication in 2000)
Baen Books; ISBN: 0671319728
Review by Lucy S
Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK

This is a time travel yarn in the venerable tradition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and Lest Darkness Fall; except in this case, instead of a single individual, an entire West Virginia town, with its nearby countryside and coal mine, is transported into the past. Into northern Germany, to be more specific, in the middle of the Thirty Years' War.

There is a rather implausible science fictional premise to the tale, so that those who choose can call this book SF; but I see it as more of a technological fantasy.

The contemporary Americans do their best to downsize their technology to something that can be sustained for a reasonable time without outside help, and try to maintain their standards of democracy, as an island within a very feudal society; although their policy of admitting refugees and their willingness to accept other democratic "states" into their version of the USA somewhat disrupts the local political structure, especially when the local lords do nothing to protect their peasants from invading armies that are used to looting, raping, and murdering as they go.

Mike Stearns, head of the coal miner's local, is attending his sister's wedding reception at the time the "Ring of Fire" seals off his world and tosses it into the past, along with all the wedding guests, including the union members who have turned out to show their solidarity with Mike. A bunch of the men ride out to see what has happened and find themselves in unfamiliar farming country, where a local farmer and his wife are about to be slaughtered by soldiers. Without any knowledge of the political situation, the defenders of the American way of life use their more advanced firearms to cut down the armed thugs save the locals.

Flint provides an interesting mix of characters within each of the two populations brought into contact, and shows a whole range of possibilities of people accepting or not accepting their strange new neighbors.

I was particularly impressed by Flint's depiction of a Sephardic Jewish family, not that I can vouch for its accuracy-- history never being one of my strengths--but because of the elegance and sympathy of the portraits.

1632 is a fun read and marks Flint as an author to watch for, whose obvious sense of humor is underlain by a serious interest in human society and history, and the ways such things might develop under other circumstances.

2001 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu