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    Review of 1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS by Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce


    Baen, October 2007

    The arrival of the modern (uptime) West Virginia town of Grantville in the midst of the 30 Year War in Germany has changed everything. Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus is still alive, the Habsburgs have been rolled back, and a degree of religious freedom has begun to break out. Even better, from the standpoint of the West Virginians, Cardinal Infante Fernando is teetering toward declaring himself--and the Spanish Netherlands, independent of his Spanish brother. Meanwhile, beautiful and large-busted Austrian Arch-Duchess Maria Anna is to be married off to her much-older uncle, the Duke of Bavaria--a man who is a constant supporter of the Catholic Counter-reformation, but who is also mad.

    Add a search for iron, a couple of uptime women being accidentally kidnapped, and Maria Anna's decision that maybe a marriage to her young and attractive cousin might be preferable to a marriage (or perhaps execution) by her insane fiance, and you've got all the makings of a top-notch alternate history story--or perhaps a historical romance.

    And that is the major problem with this story. Authors Eric Flint (see more reviews of novels by Flint) and Virginia DeMarce (see more reviews of novels by DeMarce) can't quite decide what kind of story they are writing and, as a result, fail to deliver either a top-notch romance or a first-class alternate history. 1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS makes mention of the need for iron to drive the early industrial revolution that Grantville has created, uses airplanes as a sort of deux ex machina, and flutters with modern drugs, but we don't really get a look at how technology is changing, or what difference it makes. From a romance standpoint, even setting aside the excessive fixation on Marie Anna's bosum, we really don't get any sense of conflict or, truly, anything more than physical attraction between the characters.

    Eric Flint's 1632 series is important in that it emphasizes the social nature of change. Rather than adopting the 'one unique man' approach to alternate history (see Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen for an excellent example of this approach), Flint recognized that an every-man could do the job, if supported by the proper social environment. Watching how small technological changes percolate through the 1632 universe is interesting and good SF. In 1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS, we have a couple of middle-aged Grantville women in barrels--and it's hard to really care.

    Arch-Duchess Anna Maria is really the high point of this story. Of all the characters, she has a driving goal--a goal that changes with circumstances. She makes the brave decisions and faces the consequences of her actions. It's almost a shame to see her playing the role of the quivering bride at the end of the story. I would have liked to see her set Don Fernando straight and get right to helping him carve out more of his kingdom. Bernhard is clearly being set up for something important, but all of his marching and maneuvering doesn't really add much to this particular story.

    At almost seven hundred pages, this book is too long for its contents, has long dragging sections of dialogue, and way too much repetition of the not particularly interesting 'who is related to whom,' 'who can marry whom,' and 'don't these women have nice chests.' I've been a fan of this series and am a fan of Eric Flint, but I don't like the direction it's taken lately and 1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS definitely does not get things back on track.

    One Star

    Reviewed 11/10/07

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