Disclosure: I gave this five stars, but admit I was tempted to give it onlyfour. Bear with me here, I'll tell you why.
This book is a "sampler" of the universes in which Eric Flint has exercised his talents for superb storytelling, and every single one of them is wonderful either to read or re-read. Even I, who am a long-time fan, found some stuff in here I simply hadn't had time for, and was delighted with them all.
Contents and Comments:
From: THE BELISARIUS SERIES
Islands - This is a wonderfully romantic tale of Calopodius the Blind and his wife. They are two strangers, married for family reasons and forced to learn who they are before they can BE married. Good human drama salted with lots of humor.
THE 1632 SERIES
The Wallenstein Gambit - Wallenstein has been one of the deadliest enemies of Grantville. Now he offers peace and a greatly-desired change in history, but can his price be met?
THE ANNE JEFFERSON STORIES - Diplomacy is a subset of politics, and, like politics, it's frequently the "art of the possible." These are tales set in the Siege of Amsterdam, every single one a gem of short storytelling.
Steps in the Dance
THE HONOR HARRINGTON SERIES
From the Highlands - Victor Cachat and Anton Zilwicki are probably the two most dangerous men in all of space, and enemies on opposite sides of the bitterest war in all history. So why are they working as allies? Because somebody managed to piss them both off at the same time.
THE JOE'S WORLD SERIES - These are two of Eric's light-hearted romps. The first is the original short story that later founded "The Philosophical Strangler" novel, and "The Realm of Words" is full of literary in-jokes and puns of astonishing strength, including one that would banjaxe Spider Robinson.
Entropy, and the Strangler
The Realm of Words
THE RATS, BATS & VATS SERIES
Genie Out of the Bottle - The "Vats" are humans grown in vats, and all but slaves, as are the "Rats" and "Bats", animals engineered and uplifted with cyber-implants to fight a war. But this story deals with a question of just how much, or how long, can you keep intelligent beings under your thumb. Like much of Eric's work, it's good storytelling, solid philosophy, and marvelous humor.
THE RANKS OF BRONZE SERIES
Cathargo Delenda Est - Humans weren't the only slave race in David Drake's universe, and not the only ones to want freedom, and risk whatever it takes to find it. The first time I read this story, I stared at the ending in puzzlement for several minutes before the light dawned, and then it was like the sun coming up. Even years later, I still remember that moment, and loved re-reading this one. It is a fitting end-piece for this collection of masterpieces.
Eric Flint Bibliography - A guide to where all the series above (and a lot more) can be found.
OK, I loved all the stories, laughed like hell at some and generally had a grand time with this book. And of course, the short form of all this admiring gush is, I loved it! So why, you ask, was I tempted to give it only four stars?
Because when I got to The Pun in "The Realm of Words," my wife complained about the screaming.