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    Review of AGAINST THE TIDE OF YEARS by S. M. Stirling (see his website)

    ROC, May 1999

    Inexplicably cast back into the Bronze Age, the New England island of Nantucket is attempting to preserve modern technology and democratic traditions, but it isn't easy. Although Nantucket and its proto-British allies defeated the renegade Walker in his first attempt to set up a kingdom of his own, Walker has escapted to Myceanian Greece where he is hobnobbing with Agamemnon and the wily Odysseus. His ally in Phoenecian Spain, is also adapting modern technology and poses a threat to the Island republic. New allies are critical and the Island turns to Babylon. After battling the Assyrians, the epic battle heads toward modern-Turkey--toward Troy.

    In the meantime, back in North America, Nantucket authorizes a Lewis and Clark-like exploration of the largely depopulated continent, and Nantucket engineers experiment with breech-loading rifles to replace the flintlocks that gave them initial advantage over their opponents.

    AGAINST THE TIDE OF YEARS is the second book in a trilogy following the exploits of the residents of Nantucket. No longer fighting for their lves on a daily basis, Nantucket has used its technology to carve out a protectorate. Unlike Walker, who provides technoogy broadly to his people, Nantucket hoards its technological advantage using 'locals' as spear-catchers for the most part, with a stiffening of regular troops behind them.

    A lot that made the first book in the series so powerful (see our review of ISLAND IN THE SEA OF TIME) is lacking by the timeframe in this second novel. The island is rich, has adapted much of its technology to available resources, and is able to use all of its thousands of residents to further its military and economic goals. Walker, with his handful of renegades, becomes more admirable than an enemy. I sense that author S. M. Stirling (see more reviews of novels by Stirling) has ambiguous feelings about Walker himself. Although his relationship with the sadistic Alice Hong and his tendency to rape and enslave keep him on the evil side, the man is spreading technology that Nantucket hoards, is developing close friendships with the locals (beyond the marriage to local nobility-friendships that seem Nantucket's only way of going local), and is honorable in his own way. Indeed, AGAINST THE TIDE OF YEARS comes alive largely when Walker is on the stage.

    Middle books are hard, and it would be hard to write a sequel to the powerful ISLAND. With plenty of action, a number of characters familiar to everyone who's ever read Homer, and well researched and detailed technology introduction, AGAINST THE TIDE OF YEARS is certainly worth reading.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 10/01/03

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