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Customer Review

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissappoining part two of 1633, 16 Nov 2008
This review is from: 1634: The Baltic War (Mass Market Paperback)
I am a big fan of David Weber and have enjoyed a lot of Eric Flint's writing, which makes it all the more puzzling that I find their collaboration such tepid fare. Perhaps the problem is that they are just too similar as authors; both are at their best when writing about the bullets/cannon-balls/missiles flying while men and women sacrifice themselves for King and Country. Unfortunately, 1634: The Baltic War contains very little of that. Instead we get a book describing the politics of the north-western portion of the 1632 world.

I hugely enjoyed 1632 as a book; it was a fun, rah-rah Americans-travel-back-in-time to rip things up romp through alternate history. By this book, however, the premise of the setting has stretched to breaking point. The idea that 3000 people with technology from today could - in two years accelerate progress that took 250 years in reality is - to put it mildly - utterly ludicrous. Quite apart from the technological difficulties (solved every time thanks to Grantville essentially possessing a super-expert for every pertinent job), the societal difficulties would be insurmountable. I would recommend anyone who thinks otherwise, to volunteer for some down-to-earth aid work in Africa or Asia.

Unfortunately, even if one suspends disbelief, the book fails to impress. Both Weber and Flint tend to write a particular type of story, and the pattern (outnumbered but technologically superior forces defeating surprisingly competent leaders for an incompetent government) will be quite familiar to any reader of Weber. This time, the formula fails.

The story is split up into multiple sub-plots and a majority of the 1000 pages in the book is spent on characters lecturing one another and contemplation of the situation in order to bring the reader up to date on the "history" of the book. There are lots of passages where the "down-timers" use "amusing" Americanisms (clearly highlighted, so that the reader knows it). After several hundreds of pages of this, however, the Americanisms get old - and it would be more interesting to be told why we should care about the actions of the characters, than yet another passage demonstrating the impressive historical research of the authors.

The action in the Tower of London storyline is fine, but there is never any feeling that the protagonists are in any real danger, and for a book that revolves much around the political, the motives of Stearns are surprisingly selfish. The romantic Danish storyline contained no romance and the willingness of supposedly political master-mind Stearns and Admiral Simpson to precipitate a major political crisis to save Eddie Cantrell is just unbelievable. The other romantic story-line in the book seemed to exist solely to make a Narnia joke. The most interesting storylines, in fact, are the ones involving non-Grantville characters.

Much of that time, unfortunately, spent contemplating how brilliant the Grantville characters are. This returns to a common weakness in much of Flint's writings were the "good" guys can do no wrong while the "bad" guys are either incompetent or intensely admire the "good" guys. This becomes particularly jarring in the "good" guys utilization of the Brownshirt-like Committee of Correspondence.

This book is essentially the conclusion of 1633; and to its credit it ties up most of the loose end from that story. Sadly, the most interesting story lines in 1634 are the one's that are left open-ended: the future of Oliver Cromwell and Turenne are left for future books in the series. While the story contains occasional flashes of the brilliance that made 1632 an interesting read and 1633 tolerable, 1634 book is a disappointing addition to the series.
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