1635: Cannon Law
by Eric Flint & Andrew Dennis
Review by Paul Haggerty
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 1416509380
Date: 26 September, 2006 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
1635: The Cannon Law takes place in Rome where the United States of Europe has just appointed Sharon Nichols to the newly established ambassadorship, the Committees of Correspondence has sent Frank Stone and his new bride Giovanna to set up a tavern as a point of local contact and future distribution node, and Cardinal Borja has recently returned to stir up trouble. There are factions that are not happy with the Pope's recent recognition of the USE and the appointment of uptime priest Larry Mazzare as the head of the Catholic church in those heathen territories.
While technically the Pope may be the voice of God on Earth, there are those who believe that a new Pope would speak with a clearer (or at least more palatable) voice. And as with the Golden Rule (he who has the gold makes the rules), a clear corollary could easily be know as: The Cannon Law.
The Ring of Fire books are complex and continually evolving. The stories are told with a little tongue in cheek to lighten up a story line set in an incredibly dangerous and savage world. The people native to 1635 are not the 20th century folk in strange clothes. They honestly believe things which we would look at with either humor or horror. Of course things are not so terribly absolute, as many people merely pay lip service to ideals while secretly plotting in the shadows for their own true agendas.
Cardinal Borja is an evil twisted slug of a man, but despite the blatant unchristian way he acts, he honest believes himself to acting for the greater good. It's a difficult duality to swallow, but it makes him more than just a two-dimensional caricature.
And from the beginning, the book has that iceburg feeling of inevitability. Everyone is going on about their lives in the most rational way possible while larger things are being shaped just off stage, and even those who can see the shape on the horizon, still can't quite figure out what's about to happen. By now the characters from the future have pretty much lost any edge they had in knowing the future. The history books have been widely distributed, and those in power are taking steps to make sure things don't happen the way they did in our world. And yet, the USE still maintains a few tricks up their sleeves. Not just their technology, which is now being horded as the precious commodity that it is, but also just a way of looking at things. The people of 1635 may be trying to get out of the path history set for them, but they're still driven by the same events and pressures that decided their fates the first time. And the entropy of history is heavy anchor indeed.