Friday, July 19, 2019

Green Phoenix - 1632 Review
In the year 2000, Grantville is just your run-of-the-mill West Virginian coal mining town. Filled with good-natured and hardworking Americans, but otherwise unextraordinary. But when a strange alien artifact sends the entire town 300 years into the past - into the heart of Germany in the middle of the Thirty Years' War - the Grantvillians will find themselves in a world that is both alien and all to familiar.

A world of hatred and romance. Where people are still burned at the stake and Galileo yet lives. Where murder and rape are the laws of the land and mercenaries roam the countryside with impunity.

In such a world, these ordinary Americans will have to keep their wits sharp, their guns drawn, and their values exceptionally American in order to survive.
  • Written by Eric Flint
  • First in the Ring of Fire series
  • Available in Hardback, Paperback, and E-Book
  • 512 Pages


Before I go into details about this book, I must be completely upfront and state that it is a part of my favorite book series and irrespective of what I have to say on the book, I highly recommend you check it out; if for no other reason then I would love to have more people to discuss the Ring of Fire series in its entirety. I love every book in this series and will spend a good portion of this review trying to sell you all on it.

Just being honest and transparent.

This book is an absolute blast to read, where alternative history is concerned. The concept is hardly original (The Nantucket series) but it is just so well done, and the universe is so incredibly well realized. The idea of modern Americans going back in time to Early Modern Europe, with their technology would seem fairly predictable in its outcome, but 1632 does a great job of balancing out the powers to reasonable levels and maintaining a focus not on how the timeline is changing, but on the relationships between the characters and their relationship with the changing world around them.

In the book, readers follow several character perspectives. The major ones being Michael Stearns, the "protagonist" of the novel, Rebecca Abrabanel, his Jewish love interest, Jeff Higgins, a well meaning hillbilly kid, and my favorite character; Gretchen Richter, the hard-ass no-nonsense German woman to takes American ideals like a duck to water. The series foes a great job of balancing out the perspectives American "up-timers" and the European "down-timers" to avoid giving us a deluge of "star-spangled awesome", which the book sometimes falls into, but does get better as the series goes on.

Above all things, the novel is incredibly fun. In fact, the entire series maintains a general sense of positivity and a feeling as if the universe is getting better; oftentimes in spite of some very dark themes and subject matters (a trigger warning for victims of sexual assault, though the character involved has an extremely positive moment of reflection and personal triumph over her past).

The characters are the best part of the series, without question. But I do find myself drawn to the creativity in how American technology is introduced and utilized. The community around this series (which actually helps the author(s) determine and write the canon, as fan material is often approved and included in the series as it goes along) keeps things very down to earth and maintains a realistic notion of infrastructure and the minutia and economics of many of our modern day advances.
Gustav II Adolph
In that respect, 1632 might be on of the least interesting technologically speaking, with many of the future books in the series going even further with our modern (2000) technology. But since this is the very beginning and only a single small American town, it sort of makes sense that it would take time to gather the resources and infrastructure to make those changes.

Despite all this praise, I do have one complaint. It's a minor one, but it is one I have always had with the book.

The Breitenfeld section.

Anyone who has read this book will know immediately what I am referring to. Halfway through the novel, a major historical battle takes place. This battle occurs precisely as it does historically (as the butterfly effect of the Americans arriving hasn't quite reached them) and the book finishes a really interesting and heartwarming segment, full of character growth, to go into this multi-chapter arc of dry explanation regarding 1630s warfare and the nature of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. To be fair, the section is absolutely necessary for the overall understanding of the book and it does play a major role in the sections immediately after it (as it does a great deal to ingratiate us to Gustav and show him as a generally positive down-timer). it just feels incredibly out of place compared to the segments which precede and succeed it.

But that is really my only major complaint about the book. 1632 is still a fantastically engaging read and a great introduction into a wonderfully creative and positive alternative history series and community. I am so thankful to have been introduced to this series as a teenager and give it my highest praises.

SCORE:   8/10

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