Review of 1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT by Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce
RING OF FIRE
Baen, December 2008
Thrust into the middle of the Thirty-Years War in Germany, the town of Grantsville, West Virginia has defeated the major Hapsburg armies, freed the Netherlands, saved the pope from assassination and Galileo from being burned at the stake, and has introduced modern science to central Europe. Although Grantville is a power, it's become a part of the United States of Europe, under the Emperor Gustav Adolf (of Sweden) and its leader, ex-union leader Mike Stearns knows that seventeenth century Germany is not ready for all of his ideas. He's prepared to be voted out of office, letting the so-called Crown Loyalists attempt to deliver on their promises as the new nation matures.
The German Empire faces struggles of its own. Gustav Adolf has ambitions that stretch beyond Germany into Poland and Russia, and France, although humbled, is still powerful. Finally, Spain itself has not really been touched although the Hapsburg cousins in Austria have been beaten and Spain has lost the Netherlands. The older residents of Grantville are mostly caught up in the big picture, which leaves Grantville's teens and young adults to face new threats...specifically those coming from a group of radical French Hugeunots who see war between the United States of Europe and France as a way of to overthrow the harsh rule of Cardinal Richlieu. The low-level revolutionaries on the ground in the Grantville area are instructed to assassinate the the Emperor, Stearns and other rulers and decide they can best do so under the cover of an anti-Semitic riot.Authors Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce continue an intriguing alternate history set at the time of one of Europe's most destructive wars. Rejecting the 'heroic' model, Flint and DeMarce put the focus on the little people of Grantville (and Grantsville's enemies). Much of the story becomes that of the romance between Ron Stone and Missy Jenkins, two ex-Americans brought back to the seventeenth century.
The story of 1635 has potential and even shows moments of real interest. Like other recent books in this series, however, it's in drastic need of severe pruning and, perhaps, the addition of a bit more story. It's nice to see Ron and Missy fall more deeply in love, but the romance never seems much in doubt and it was certainly hard for me to care whether they consumate before or after their marriage. Certainly the history of Europe doesn't seem to hang in the balance. Dialogue tends to flow in long paragraphs rather than a more natural back and forth, meaning that the 582 page book (hardback edition) is actually longer than most novels of a similar page count.
The RING OF FIRE series started brilliantly with the original 1632--where things happened and the world was changed. In the most recent books, including THE DREESON INCIDENT, relatively little happens. In particular in DREESON, what does happen (spoiler alert... the Committee of Correspondence makes war on antisemitism) doesn't seem directly connected to the other five hundred and fifty or so pages of the novel, doesn't really address the major conflicts occuring in the novel, doesn't involve the primary characters in the novel, and is generally described through exposition rather than through active living of the process.
DREESON is definitely for true fans of this series only. Even as a true fan, I couldn't help being disappointed.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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