Thursday, March 04, 2010

1634: The Bavarian Crisis (Ring of Fire)

Eric Flint (Author), Virginia DeMarce (Author)

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The Thirty Years War continues to ravage 17th century Europe, but a new force is gathering power and influence: the Confederated Principalities of Europe, an alliance between Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, and the West Virginians from the 20th century led by Mike Stearns who were hurled centuries into the past by a mysterious cosmic accident.

The CPE has the know-how of 20th century technology, but needs iron and steel to make the machines. The iron mines of the upper Palatinate were rendered inoperable by wartime damage, and American know-how is needed on the spot to pump them out and get the metal flowing again—a mission that will prove more complicated than anyone expects. In the maelstrom that is Europe, even a 20th century copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica can precipitate a crisis, when readers learn of the 1640 Portuguese revolt, a crisis that will involve Naples as well. Another factor: Albanian exiles in Naples, inspired by the Americans, are plotting to recover lost Albanian turf, which will precipitate yet another crisis in the Balkans.

This troubled century was full of revolutions and plans for more revolutions before the Americans arrived, and gave every would-be revolutionary an example of a revolution that succeeded. Europe is a pot coming to a boil, and Mike Stearns will have his hands full seeing that it doesn't boil over on to Grantville and the CPE.

FINALLY got around to finishing this. I'd bought the ebook almost two years ago and been carrying it around on PDAs forever. Finally got around to finishing it after a burst of e-reading Makers, and pondering getting a Kindle......

This is a book well suited to an e-reader (at least for me) since it is easier to zing past some of the interminable pages (well screens) of very detailed historical and alter-historical details. I slow down when I hit the good bits (mostly the fun interaction between up-time/down-time culture). Now I need to figure out which is the next book I need to read... I think it's 1635: The Dreeson Incident.

Makers by Cory Doctorow


From the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother, a major novel of the booms, busts, and further booms in store for America

Perry and Lester invent things—seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems, like the “New Work,” a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups like Perry and Lester’s. Together, they transform the country, and Andrea Fleeks, a journo-turned-blogger, is there to document it.

Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot.combomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Wal-Marts across the land. As their rides, which commemorate the New Work’s glory days, gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive grows jealous, and convinces the police that Perry and Lester’s 3D printers are being used to run off AK-47s.

Hordes of goths descend on the shantytown built by the New Workers, joining the cult. Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment strategy: backing litigation against companies like Disney. Lester and Perry’s friendship falls to pieces when Lester gets the ‘fatkins’ treatment, turning him into a sybaritic gigolo.

Then things get really interesting.

Very fun read. At times I felt some aspects went on too long - and a few things weren't tied up as I'd liked at the end... but still a fun exploration of "what might happen"...

AND, as usual Doctorow provides e-book downloads on his page (above) - made this easy to pack on my old obsolete Palm PDA to take for a trip.

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

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New York Times bestselling author Sarah Vowell explores the Puritans and their journey to America in The Wordy Shipmates. Even today, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Vowell investigates what that means — and what it should mean. What was this great political enterprise all about? Who were these people who are considered the philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors of our nation? The people she finds are highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty. Their story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance. Along the way she asks:

• Was Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop a communitarian, a Christ-like Christian, or conformity's tyrannical enforcer? Answer: Yes!
• Was Rhode Island's architect, Roger Williams, America's founding freak or the father of the First Amendment? Same difference.
• What was the Puritans' pet name for the Pope? The Great Whore of Babylon.
Sarah Vowell's special brand of armchair history makes the bizarre and esoteric fascinatingly relevant and fun. She takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. The Wordy Shipmates is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America's most celebrated voices. Thou shalt enjoy it.

Very enjoyable - Vowell does a good job of connecting the dots from history to our present. She doesn't dismiss the Puritans - she takes them seriously and helps us understand them. She's a very sympathetic writer as she talks about their beliefs and motivations.

For some reason this made me reflect on "The Fingerprints of God" - another book which takes us on a tour of the beliefs of many different people. I think Vowell is a better writer, but it occurred to me that Barbara Bradley Haggerty, as she examined evidence for faith was in a different position as she HAD a faith in God that gave her a lens through which to refract her explorations. Vowell doesn't have a faith (except in the freedom of religion) - it makes her possibly more objective - but... it also disconnects her from her subjects in a way that Barbara Bradley Haggerty was not.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

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In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

Very nice bit of steampunk/alternate history. Lots of good plot twists as well. It would be nice to see if she does some more with this setting.