25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A good premise ultimately smothered by silliness,
This review is from: 1632 (Assiti Shards) (Mass Market Paperback)
The premise of "1632" has potential. In this work of alternative history by Eric Flint, a circular area of West Virginia six miles in diameter, and including the town of Grantville (pop. 3,000 or so), is suddenly transported from its place in the 20th century to a parallel universe in the year 1632 AD, and dropped intact into an identically shaped hole in the landscape of the German principality of Thuringia - right in the middle of that then-ongoing carnage called the Thirty Years War. Since the Americans are now left to their own resources without the ability to "call home" for help, this could've been an off-beat and gripping survival story had it been developed properly. Unfortunately, it wasn't, and it just came out being ridiculous.
In an Author's Afterword, Flint says that "1632" is a "sunny book". That's the problem. For our castaways, there are no clouds in the sky, no matter what the situation. First of all, the collective consternation of the citizens over losing their place in the modern present was no greater than if they'd been stranded in Newark after having missed a plane. I mean, where were the cries of outrage as the trips to see the grandkids in California, the vacations to DisneyWorld, the opportunity to see "I Love Lucy" reruns, and the 401k retirement plans, are all lost forever? Rather, our square-jawed and unrelentingly self-righteous American heroes spend their time rescuing damsels-in-distress from the marauding mercenary bands of the period, and otherwise imposing civil order and the U.S. federal political structure on a world in serious disarray. Teddy Roosevelt couldn't have done it better with his Big Stick approach. (Modern hunting rifles, plus the M-60 machine gun good ol' Frank has stashed in his backyard, don't hinder the clean-up either as lines of armored men with pikes are mowed down. Yee-haw, boys, I guess we showed them varmints a thing or two!) And then, of course, there are all the True Loves conveniently discovered as the Grantville singles fraternize with the natives. Indeed, the principal American strongman, Mike, finds his (on page 43 already) in a wooden stagecoach lurching down a local cart track pursued by period thugs. I mean, it's just all so sugary sweet that I was tempted to send out for Kleenex, insulin and an air-sickness bag, not really sure which I'd need first.
And how about those unwashed local yokels, huh? As various elements become socially and militarily allied with those amazing Yanks, does any individual among the former ever ask who won the Thirty Years War according to 20th century history books? (If 22nd century Wall Street suddenly dropped onto your back patio, wouldn't you at least want to know the future of that new gene technology IPO?) And are they particularly in awe of 20th century technological advances? Yawn. Without spilling too much of the plot, I can safely reveal that, at one point, our 17th century cousins, without having given it too much thought, are cozily sitting around the TVs chortling as Grantville's local programming is miraculously brought back on the air. (Hey, does anybody want to order out for some KFC before the game show starts?) All the comforts of a futuristic home.
There's only one element amidst this silliness that justified my finishing the book. It's the part describing the Thirty Years War and its greatest warrior-hero, King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden. A cursory examination of the war's history on an on-line encyclopedia was enough to show that the background material supplied in "1632" was at least superficially accurate, so I may have learned something of value while reading this oversized comic book. From beginning to end, the plot is just too pat and too shallow. Thus, if you're not interested in the historical bit, don't bother with the whole.