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    Review of 1634: THE GALILEO AFFAIR by Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis

    Baen, April 2004

    The West Virginia town of Grantville, cast back into the midst of Germany during the 30 years war, has done pretty well for itself. Uniquely in a world where religion was a cause for war, Grantville preached tolerance. And, with the help of modern weapons and strategy and an alliance with Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, they've been able to enforce their will--and peace--on a good part of what is now Germany. Even Austria, humbled by the rebellion of its great general Wallenstein, has backed off. Spain remains an enemy, but it has its hands full with the Netherlands. And France is too careful to risk its armies in the meat-grinder that the United States of Europe has become.

    Still, there are more ways to defeat than the purely military and the Catholic powers dominate Europe despite the new United States. Prime Minister Stern realizes that he needs some accomodation with the Church and trade. Of the three great trading powers of 1634, England is an enemy, Holland has its own problems, but Venice is desperate for a chance to recover her past glories. Catholic Venice is, therefore, the prize in the latest game of Empire. And all sides send their best agents--the French to disrupt and discredit the Americans, the Spanish to protect themselves, and Grantville to get the materials and allies that it desperately needs.

    Unfortunately for Grantville, its embassy includes some teenage boys who love adventure and who get caught up in the romance of rescuing Galileo from the inquisition. Never mind that Galileo was never especially badly treated, they become convinced that his rescue would be a glorious blow against entrenched power and for freedom. With a few pushes from the evil French, a hopeless plot becomes a very real danger--something that could destroy everything Stern and his allies have been working for.

    Author Eric Flint (see more reviews of novels by Flint), this time working with author Andrew Dennis has created a fascinating alternate history in his 1632 series. Rather than picking a single hero/king, Flint works from a community--a union town of coal miners and working people. It's a great idea and it works. The 1632 series is a powerful direction in alternate history. 1634: THE GALILEO AFFAIR continues in this tradition, picking up on minor characters from the earlier novels in the series or even from short stories written by others (in RING OF FIRE, see our review). Flint also manages to mix some romance with his military.

    1634: THE GALILEO AFFAIR might have stepped too far in the direction of romance and away from the military. There are no battles in this book, few examples of the technological advances of the West Virginians (using the radio for clever speculation is the primary example), and a bit too much romance. All of which means that GALILEO isn't quite up to the standards set by the original 1632. It is, however, a well written and entertaining story. If you've read the earlier books, you'll definitely want to get this one. If you haven't, you'll want to get this one--and read the other ones first. (There's good news--you can read the first books for free from the Baen Free Library.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 4/09/04

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