Friday, December 21, 2012

A clash of cultures

Clashing cultures often make good stories, and Eric Flint's 1632 may describe the ultimate culture clash. A small area surrounding Grantsville, W.Va., (a fictional town modeled after Mannington along U.S. 250) gets suddenly transported back to 17th century Germany. How this happens, Flint doesn't even attempt to explain. His West Virginians simply describe it as the Ring of Fire and go on with their lives, albeit in what is now a strange and decidedly unfriendly environment.

What the people of Grantsville have going for them is late-20th century technology and good old American know-how, plus a strong commitment to American values. They, in fact, are determined to establish a new country called the United States right there in the middle of Germany, never mind that they have but one state, and that a very small one. What they have going against them, besides their small numbers, are several warring armies, plus a little thing known as the Spanish Inquisition.

The battles, described by Flint in great detail, are mostly one-sided, thanks to American weaponry, plus a bouncy 18-year-old former cheerleader who turns into a deadly sniper who rarely misses her target.

Like in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, most of the main characters pair off and get married by the end of the novel. Unlike in Gilbert and Sullivan, most of the women are pregnant by their wedding day.

Part fantasy, part science fiction, part historical novel, 1632 is an exciting and very readable book, even if not fully satisfying. Numerous sequels by Flint and other authors have kept the saga going since 1632 was published in 2000.

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