This is the first `best of' volume of GG, containing a selection of stories from electronic issues GG5 thru GG12. Like any anthology of shorter fiction, it is a mixed bag, but in this case, with gems. Of the 25 stories, ten rate (IMnsHO) five stars, and only three rate less than four. The weighted average [sum of (pages x stars) / total pages] is 4.657, which rounds to five.
The stories, in order of appearance:
* Steady Girl, by Eric Flint, *****, 40 pages. On Denise Beasley's recommendation, Don Francisco Nasi hires Eddie away from Noelle, which angers Noelle, but he manages to pacify her.
* Schwarza Falls, by Douglas W. Jones, ****, 32 pages. Chronologically, the earliest of the sequels; roughly contemporary with chapter 5 of 1632.
* Recycling, by Philip Schillawski & John Rigby, ****, 17 pages. Lee Ann turns out to be smarter than she looks.
* A Question of Faith, by Anette Pederson, ****½, 32 pages. Father Johannes gets an offer that might be more than it seems.
* Got my Buck, by Barry C. Swift, *** ½, 7 pages. Wili recounts what he's heard about Grantville.
* The Dalai Lama's Electric Buddha, by Victor Klimov, *** ½, 5 pages. The (historical) `Great Fifth' Dalai Lama receives a strange gift.
* Canst Thou Send Lightnings?, by Rick Boatright, *****, 29 pages. Father Smithson finds the answer to the uptimers' problem of building an RF generator, in an unexpected place.
* Grantville"s Greatest Philosopher?, by Terry Howard, *****, 24 pages. Wilhelm Krieger comes to Grantville seeking to meet Grantville's greatest philosopher, and who does he meet?
* The Painter's Gambit, by Iver P. Cooper, *****, 34 pages. Felix faces a strange challenge.
* The Minstrel Boy, by John Zeek, ****½, 34 pages. Private Hagen, 17, wants to go to Magdeburg with his unit, not stay in Grantville to complete his schooling. Will he?
* A Taste of Home, by Chris Racciato, ****, 12 pages. The Pridmores' hot pepper sauce is an unexpected hit.
* N.C.I.S: Young Love Lost, by Jose J. Clavell, *****, 20 pages. Gunther and Brunhilde of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service solve the murder of a young couple.
* The Prepared Mind, by Kim Mackey, ****¾, 16 pages. Downtimers find a suboptimal but doable solution to a problem that has eluded the uptimers.
* Capacity for Harm, by Richard Evans, ****¾, 8 pages. Tomas Eichemann faces painful questioning.
* Little Angel, by Karen Offord, ****½, 21 pages. Dell is determined that his granddaughter shall not have died in vain.
* None So Blind, by David Carrico, ****¾, 50 pages. The worst I have seen from David Carrico, but still much better than the best of most authors. Bill and Byron are seconded to the USE Department of Justice with results that are both fortunate and unfortunate.
* On the Matter of D'Artagnan, by Bradley H. Sinor, *****, 19 pages. After Reading Dumas, Cardinal Richelieu hires Charles D'Artagnan.
* A Filthy Story, by Aamund Brevik, **, 9 pages. Frozen pipes cause toilets to back up.
* The Treasure Hunters, by Karen Bergstrahl, ****¼, 28 pages. Confidence men get overconfident.
* Bathing with Coal, by Russ Rittgers, ****, 18 pages. When the price of firewood goes thru the roof, Barnabas and Margarete convert their bathhouse to coal-fired.
* Lessons in Astronomy, by Peter Hobson, ****, 7 pages. Downtimer Father Scheiner does an orbital calculation that is beyond amateur astronomer Johnnie Farrell of Grantville.
* Wish Book, by Gorg Huff & Paula Goodlett, *****, 42 pages. Paulus acquires more than he expected.
* O For A Muse of Fire, by Jay Robison, *****, 27 pages. Jumping the shark does not always succeed.
* Pilgrimage of Grace, by Virginia DeMarce, *****, 13 pages. Karyn Sue was `not the sharpest knife in the drawer,' but her sense of right and wrong was right on target.
* Twenty-eight Men, by Mark Huston, *****, 74 pages. As the song says, "Blood and bones are the price of coal."
These stories are part of the Ring of Fire hypernovel, of which at this writing some twenty books have been published and about another twenty are in the works. You will be better prepared to enjoy the Grantville Gazettes (and the Ring of Fire anthologies) if you first read 1632 and maybe 1633.
This is the most ambitious, and I think the best alternate history yet. I eagerly await the next volume, 1636: The Kremlin Games, which will be out in June.
NOTE TO HISTORY TEACHERS: These books are an excellent vehicle for getting students interested in European history. They are great fun to read, and can serve as springboards for discussions comparing the alternate history with actual history.