I’m ridiculously far behind on my book and movie reviews right now. I recently read 1632 (Science Fiction 592) by Eric Flint. I found several of the alternate history books on my travels, but they were never the first book in the series. I dislike reading books out of order because I feel like I miss something crucial, so I went out of my way to pick this up when I was shopping some time ago.
This book took me a bit longer to get through than a book of this size usually does. I’m not entirely certain if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. There are different types of books on the market this days. Some read so fast that you only get the basic characteristics of plot and character. A lot of books that I read quickly are ones that I don’t need to think much about. David Weber‘s Honor Harrington series is also something of a time-consuming read. In the long run, I feel like reading books like this, where I pretty much have to read every single word, makes me remember more of the intricate details instead of just remembering overarching trends. I guess it all balances out in the end, where you need to read slower books every now and again to make up for the “brain candy” you get out of quick reads.
The story itself focuses on a fictional town of Grantville, West Virginia that gets somehow transported into the middle of Germany during the Thirty Years’ War. I’m not really a history buff, but there seemed be a lot of little nuggets inserted just for those people who have a much greater understanding than I do of all the nuances of history and that time period. It’s an interesting idea to take our modern view on the world and our modern technology and throw them back into a very unfriendly time in history. I like how not everything is easy and like magic for the stranded Americans. They realize early on that long-term planning is going to be a huge benefit to maintain their modern standard of living and they work to build a brand new power plant out of the resources available in Europe in the 1600s.
I think one of the things that really struck me about this book is how it reflects on what actually makes America function. The high-ranking CEO turns out to be fairly useless in the long-term. He wants to be in charge because he’s used to the power, but he lets politics get in his way so often that he doesn’t understand what’s necessary to actually get the job done. But the average coal miner, school teacher, and high school student demonstrate more of the heart of America than I usually see in novels. It is the workers who make America run and not the politicians, but the politicians love being in charge. In a good portion of the horror flicks I’ve seen, I’ve noticed that politicians don’t last very long once people start dying because they offer no useful skills. They would rather tell someone what to do instead of getting dirty themselves. And this novel does a great job of showing the average American as someone who has the potential to be great and as all the people with the true heart of doing what’s right and good.
Overall, I think I would have to care more about history to be enthralled by this series, but the characters are ones that I absolutely cheer for. It’s a well-written book with an interesting story and good characters.