Flint's 'Ring of Fire' series offers an enjoyable romp through European history - with a twist. Being familiar with this period certainly helps, as long as one is prepared to suspend expectations of accuracy as the stories move further away from reality as the impact of the American time travellers becomes more widespread. I've just purged my bookshelves and this is one of the series I replaced with Kindle versions as I reread them about once a year - speed reading is expensive. My favourites remain 1632 and 1633 but his introduction of subsequent characters' storylines works well. I'm just about to read 'Parcel of Rogues', the latest, and am wondering how Darryl's and Oliver Cromwell's story will develop.
I picked up the first book in this series purely on speculation and was hooked. Between the books and the Grantville Gazette on line a whole new dimension in Alternative History unfolds. Characters are allowed to develope and blossom. I await eacf further instalment either in book form or on line with baited breath.
This is the tenth book in a series in which a small American town is sent back from around the turn of the millennium to Germany in the middle of the 30 years war. The books in this series are identified with titles which are, or begin with, the 17th century year in which each book starts (e.g. 1632, 1633, etc) and it is sometimes known as the "Ring of Fire" or "Assiti Shards" series.
The "Ring of Fire" is how the inhabitants of Grantville described the event which brought their town back 370 years in time and a few thousand miles in space. The Assiti were the race whose thoughtless actions, described in the first book as akin to "criminal negligence," caused that event, though we are told in the first novel in the series that no human will ever learn this.
Some of the books in this series were just written by Eric Flint but most have one or more co-authors such as David Weber. They differ very greatly in their style and focus, and I gather I am not the only reader who enjoyed some of them very much more than others. The five which I did enjoy and can recommend to others, which include this one, can be read in sequence and give you a reasonable overview of the history of the very different seventeenth century which Grantville's arrival in Germany in 1632 creates in the stories.
Eric Flint himselves describes these same five books as the "Main line" or spinal cord of the series to date in the afterword to this volume. They are:
The complete list of novels in the series to date is:
1) 1632 2) 1633 3) 1634: The Galileo Affair 4) 1634: The Baltic War 5) 1634: The Bavarian Crisis 6) 1634: The Ram rebellion 7) 1635: The Dreeson Incident 8) 1635: The Cannon Law 9) 1635: The Eastern Front 10) 1636: The Saxon uprising
I've counted "The Ram rebellion" in this list, though Eric Flint himself describes it as "An oddball volume which has some of the characteristics of an anthology and some of the characteristics of a novel."
There are also several short story/novella collections set in this alternative 17th century including "Ring of Fire," "1635: The Tangled Web" (by Virginia DeMarce) and a number of books in the "Grantville Gazette" series.
Flint has also written a book in which a second similar event hits the 21st century world which Grantville has left behind a few years later, called Time Spike.
The title of "1636: The Saxon Uprising" is something of a misnomer: that title seems to infer that radicals in Saxony start a civil war by rising against the government, when in fact what happens in the book is almost the exact reverse. The book is set after the inhabitants of Grantville have founded a new and reasonably democratic "United States of Europe" covering most of modern Germany with the aid of an alliance with with the Swedish King, Gustavus Adolphus. At first it appears that they have defeated all their enemies and reshaped Europe.
Unfortunately part of the price of living in a democracy is that sometimes the majority of other citizens vote for someone other than the person you want. Thinking themselves safe and able to go back to the comfortably familiar, the electorate of the USE voted out the Grantville leader, Mike Stearns, as Prime Minister of the USE and replaced him with a moderate aristocrat, William Wettin.
In the previous book, "1635: The Eastern Front" Gustavus Adolphus decided he didn't want to lose Mike Stearns' talents, so he appointed Mike a general and placed him in charge of a division of troops.
Wettin's election might not have been too disastrous had the King been around to keep things under control: unfortunately Gustavus managed to get himself seriously wounded during a war against Poland.
At the start of this book, Gustavus has been in a coma for months, and there is serious doubt whether he will ever recover. The internal forces of reaction within Sweden and the USE appear to be preparing a coup.
This puts Mike Stearns in a very difficult position: he's in command of a division of effective and loyal troops who will undoubtedly back him if he tries to oppose the reactionaries by force. But how can you build democracy by resorting to force of arms when it produces a result you don't like?
I did enjoy this book, which has some very good humour and some clever ideas. The quality of the historical reseach and imagination in this series is extremely patchy, excellent in places and rather poor in others.
Earlier books in the series made out Charles I of England, who admittedly wasn't the most brilliant man who ever lived, out to be a far bigger idiot than he ever was in life, while presenting a view of Oliver Cromwell which appears be based on rose-tinted spectacles.
This one has a few lines about the Princes in the Tower which are factually inaccurate (in particular, contrary to the statement in this book, Henry VII himself didn't directly accuse Richard III of murdering them, but plenty of other people did, starting with the Lord Chancellor of France during a speech to the French parliament made while Richard was still on the throne.)
But this book and the other four I have recommended are good fun.
If you enjoy this story of a modern community sent back many years in time, you might also enjoy S.M. Stirling's Nantucket trilogy in which that island is sent much further back by a similar event. The Nantucket trilovy consists of: