beboots: (Elizabeth)
[personal profile] beboots

In the continuing effort to avoid doing more homework (hey, I managed to finish that four-way book review in time to be handed in this morning, okay?), I've decided to write a review of a book that I read last week (again, in an effort to avoid doing homework). 

1632, by Eric Flint, the first in a series. (Note for anybody who knows me in RL: other books in this series besides "The Baltic War" and "The Ram Rebellion", which I already have on my bookshelf, would be an excellent Christmas gift. :D )

First, take a moment to contemplate the awesomeness that is this cover. 

Yes, that is what it looks like. The plot goes thusly: the West-Virginian town of Grantville is displaced in time and place from the year 2000 to the year 1632, essentially dumping them in the middle of the Holy Roman Empire in the midst of the Thirty Years War, one of the most bloody conflicts in European history. 

And it is awesome. The West Virginians don't try to pretend that they're sorcerers or anything: they're just brutally honest. And maintain their American values. They quickly take charge of their own situation and decide to help out the German refugees of the area, with awesome results. 

The author is a trained historian, I believe, and this is the kind of book I would love to write if I had that kind of knowledge of 17th century politics and society. The reactions of characters from both sides just seem so REAL. Little details, like the fact that the Americans win most skirmishes mostly due to sheer rate of fire, that 17th century men have bad teeth, that visual details about a modern person would "read" differently to a 17th century person. For instance, take this scene from the middle of the book in which the citizens of Grantville have just made an alliance with the men of a nearby German town against the invading Catholic army, where Jeff, a slightly overweight nerdy D&D enthusiast who is acting as a scout and messenger, is just leaving on his motorbike:
"A moment later, Jeff was roaring off. He made it a point to do a wheelie as he passed a small group of young men standing by the road. The local toughs, by their looks. 
They were suitably impressed - not so much by the acrobatics of the machine as the ferocious scowl on the face of the very large man who rode it. That, and the odd but deadly looking weapon slung over his shoulder [a sawed-off shotgun]. Jeff would have been quite shocked - and utterly pleased - had he known the impression he made on those bravos. They saw nothing of a shy young man in his leather-jacketed form. Just a killer. The fact that he wore spectacles made him seem all the more dangerous. The better to see his victims, no doubt."

The characters are engaging and have a refreshing pragmatism. They don't go messing about like a lot of other fantasy/timetravel characters I've read about. They get down to business, and follow their (American) ideals, which include things like equality for women and freedom of religion. They're also just plain badass. For instance, early in the book some men from the United Mine Workers of America (the local union, AKA the UMWA) go off to investigate some smoke, before they really realize what has happened to their town, and run across some mercenaries having their way with a farmer and his wife. The Americans, ah, take care of business, rescuing the injured and traumatized family. A few chapters later, a different set of mercenaries, Scotsmen on the other side, run across this placard planted on the top of what is clearly a mass grave: 


Then the Scottish mercenaries try to brush up on their Polish because they have no idea at all what "Umwa" means, but it sounds Polish to them. 

The seventeenth century characters are awesome too. There's an educated "jewess" who is one of the first to be rescued (and remains an awesome member of the American's elected assembly), an unwilling camp follower who was rescued by the Americans and becomes almost a spy/agent for them as an ardent supporter of 21st century women's rights, a young Scottish mercenary officer who visits a 21st century dentist before he starts wooing one of the Grantville cheerleaders because he feels self-conscious about his teeth, and, of course, there is King Gustavus Adolfus II, the Swedish King and head of the "good" guys' army, who is blustery and at first disbelieving but awesome. You're also treated to scenes of 17th century germans showing off their abilities to drive busses or use telephones to more recent arrivals in Grantville. 

Amongst the 21st century characters are that cheerleader mentioned above who becomes a crack sharpshooter, and the school's history teacher, a former Civil Rights activist who was only working in this tiny West Virginian town because she was too radical to be hired in the big city where she used to live (although the townspeople didn't really learn this until they were writing up their new constitution.) Maybe I just like badass historians. ANYWAY...

There are so many things to love about this book. If you like the following, GET THEE TO A BOOKSTORE POST-HASTE:
-alternate universes
-HISTORY, especially European history
-a writer of historical fiction that understands that people in the past didn't do things like wear bras, understand democracy, have accurate guns or good teeth, etc.
-political shenanigans in which racist bigots don't win
-tactics that combine historical techniques with modern weaponry
-characters who have personalities independent of their love interests
-strong female characters who have personalities independent of their love interests, who sometimes have moments even more badass than the menfolk
-badass scenes in which the 17th century people actually demonstrate that the people of the 21st century actually DO have things to learn from the past.

I want to read this later book in the series just because of the cover: 

Aww yeah! >:D

Date: 2010-12-02 11:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can second the recommendation. My parents love this series, and I loved 1632 when I read it. ('Lo these many years ago.)

Date: 2010-12-02 11:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh good, it's not just me being eclectic and eccentric. ;) I've hesitated to thrust it into the faces of anyone but my immediate family so far, exclaiming: "SEE? SEE? BRILLIANCE!" My little brother is unimpressed. :P The only history-type stuff that HE is into is the Assassin's Creed games. My sister liked the look of the books, though. I just wish I had more TIME to read them all...

Date: 2010-12-03 12:23 am (UTC)
kuiskata: (Read)
From: [personal profile] kuiskata
Damn you. You should not be giving me even more things to add to my "to read" list.

Date: 2010-12-03 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I do it out of the love of books, m'dear. :D And have I ever been wrong about a recommendation?

Date: 2010-12-03 06:33 am (UTC)
kuiskata: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kuiskata
*eyes to read bookshelf*

...Clearly what I need is a new bookshelf! XD

Date: 2010-12-03 05:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Me too! I'm considering rearranging my bedroom so as to get more bookshelf space...

Date: 2010-12-03 05:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I will always love Eric Flint for his Baen Free Library idea. 1632 was pretty decent too.

You probably already know this but for the other people you're reccing to, you can download the whole series here:

And it's not a bootleg. Baen puts these out for free thinking, much like library circulation, it'll get a bigger audience and most fans will want to buy a copy.

Date: 2010-12-03 05:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I totally did NOT know that it was available for free online! :DD

... Goodbye, all of my spare time. D: Must... pace myself... Resist urge to read everything right now... Thank you so much!

Date: 2010-12-03 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In that case a couple more links...

Baen Free Library:

And a catalogue of all the compilation cds they put in new hardcover editions (and have given permission to circulate):

I really recommend the Cryoburn cd. It's the complete Miles Vorkosigian series less one novel. I originally missed the series, despite really good reviews, because it's more scifi than fantasy and I'm mostly a fantasy fan. But I tried it because it was free and I have a Kindle and LOVED it. It's the best thing I've read in years.

Date: 2010-12-03 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love Miles Vorkosigan! My father, who is a sci-fi buff, recommended it to me and my sister last year, and I blasted through the first four or five books, but then lost momentum because of a huge historiography paper that I had to write. I've been meaning to reread them (my sister's run off with the books) for a while, too... I guess I'm just going to have to add even more to my Christmas reading list... ;)

Date: 2010-12-03 07:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Woo! I'm glad to see this book recommended by you :) I was thinking about picking up 1835 at the bookstore but wasn't sure if it was going to be any good with the historical accuracies. Good to know that I almost missed the fist book. Thanks!

Date: 2010-12-05 07:05 am (UTC)
kuiskata: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kuiskata
Link to the Cree artist I was talking about:

She's got an amazing voice!

Date: 2010-12-05 05:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you so much! This is beautiful!

Date: 2010-12-05 08:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Also, here is the trailer for that awesome zombie tv series, The Walking Dead, that you also need to watch. :3

Date: 2010-12-05 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
ALSO, another reason that you, personally, should start watching True Blood. One of the main (and hottest) vampires, Eric, is Swedish. Also, a viking. Who speaks Swedish. You like Swedish, right?

Date: 2010-12-06 04:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Also, MOAR Eric speaking swedish/maybe anglo-saxon/something, in a flashback to back when he was human and about to be turned. Godric is creepy yet sweet at the same time!


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