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1632 (Ring Of Fire) Paperback – February 1, 2001
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FREEDOM AND JUSTICE -- AMERICAN STYLE
1632 And in northern Germany things couldn't get much worse. Famine. Disease. Religous war laying waste the cities. Only the aristocrats remained relatively unscathed; for the peasants, death was a mercy.
2000 Things are going OK in Grantville, West Virginia, and everybody attending the wedding of Mike Stearn's sister (including the entire local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America, which Mike leads) is having a good time.
THEN, EVERYTHING CHANGED....
When the dust settles, Mike leads a group of armed miners to find out what happened and finds the road into town is cut, as with a sword. On the other side, a scene out of Hell: a man nailed to a farmhouse door, his wife and daughter attacked by men in steel vests. Faced with this, Mike and his friends don't have to ask who to shoot. At that moment Freedom and Justice, American style, are introduced to the middle of the Thirty Years' War.
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I will say the American chauvinism comes across hot and heavy. But by the end of the story has been pounded into a compromise that will offer I hope the best of both worlds - Monarchy and Democracy. If I get around to reading the other books in the series, I suppose I'll find out.
The close, work-together-and-never-complain attitude of the translated townsfolk was not so believable - the only opposition was a minor character who was a stranger to the most of the others and who played little role in the tale. The drive to recreate America-at-its-ideal-best advanced so rapidly and with so much cooperation that it was again not quite believable - a Norman Rockwell painting.
What I noticed most (and with amusement) about the author's writing style is how different it is from the style of women's fiction written by women that I usually read. First of all, the boy-meets-girl scenarios did not go through the typical attraction / misunderstanding / conflict / drama / drama / drama / kiss that make up most of the story in many novels written for women by other women. In 1632, boys meet girls and the romances are in almost immediately in full swing. In one case, the couple was married 3 pages after they met! Although the wedding gown is described as "borrowed", the author gives none of the details that would have taken up several paragraphs in a book written by a woman. Likewise, this couple's wedding night scene got the point across without delving into the flowery and/or passionate language frequently found in women's fiction.
More time and lengthy detail are given to the mechanics and logistics of the newbies settling into the year 1632 and configuring the technology they brought with them to continue working some 400 years before such things were actually invented. Since Grantville, VA was time and geographically shifted into 17th century Europe during the Thirty Years War, descriptions of battles (both actual and imagined) are especially detail oriented. As interactions take place between the the Middle Ages European inhabitants of 1632 and the North American newbies, the Europeans seemed quite comfortable with the clothing, speech, lifestyle, and possessions of the Americans once it was firmly established that no witchcraft was involved. According to my husband, some place names, battles, and historical characters are real. I take his word on that. There is some graphic violence which takes place in the context of battle engagements and raiding parties.
The book is also lengthy, nearly 600 pages. It's a good book to settle into when the reader has a long stretch of uninterrupted time. For me it was a rainy weekend on the couch. I can also imagine this as a good book during a long airplane flight.
The next book in the series seemed focused on military history, which is a particular interest of my husband's, not mine, and I'm not likely to continue reading, but I enjoyed this one.
It's a thoughtful tale and historically accurate from the perspective of the warring sides that would slay 60% of Europe. It's a fantasy conducted in the midst of the greatest European calamity of all time.
5-star fun read.
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