Review of A 1636: THE SAXON UPRISING by Eric Flint
RING OF FIRE
Baen, April 2011
Stearns isn't blind and he knows that Oxenstierna plans to undo the democratic movement Stearns played a huge role in launching. Still, he's been ordered out of the country by the Empire's legitimate government. Although his division would certainly follow his lead, throwing them into a political confrontation risks splitting the movement he's done so much to foster--and might swing fence-sitters to the Swedish Chancellor and his calls for order. Yet Stearns can't simply sit by and let his party, his wife and his children be slaughtered.
Author Eric Flint (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of alternate history by Flint) continues the alternate history series he began with 1632 (see the BooksForABuck.com review). The 1990s Americans continue to offer both technology and their liberal ideas of democracy and human rights in seventeenth century central Europe. Flint has gradually abandoned the "it takes a village" approach to alternate history he used in the early books in the series and now Stearns is the master-mind who, together with his beautiful and intelligent wife, and radical leader Gretchen Richter, now impose their personalities on the situation (rather than relying on technology and ideas imported from America). As with 1635: THE EASTERN FRONT (see our review), Flint relies too heavily on ponderous discussions with the characters complimenting one another (and especially complimenting the cleverness of Stearns, his wife and Richter), delaying any real action far into the book. Although the writing is sometimes clunky, the basic story idea is sound and enjoyable. Although the 30 years war didn't really resolve anything, it did distort Europe and especially Germany in ways that led, if indirectly, to the rise of Prussia and the world wars of the early 20th century. And Flint, together with co-authors, do an excellent job looking at technologies that might actually be implemented--winter uniforms.
I found myself a little lost in Flint's introduction of "Beckies" (a currency issued by Stearns's division). The idea that such a currency could become strong depends on a military division actually offering services to the community (other than defending it). While a military unit could theoretically provide such services, doing so would get in the way of actually preparing for war and it's hard to imagine they could do so more effectively than the local artisans and craftsmen. The odd thing, from my perspective, is that this aspect was really not significant and dragged me out of the story.
Okay, so 1636: THE SAXON UPRISING is flawed by its reliance on unrealistic dialogue, slow pacing, questionable economics and an increasing hero-centered approach. On the other hand, I enjoyed the characters of Col. Hand and Jozef Wojtowicz and Flint does a nice job in his (eventual) battle sequence where Stearns's forces confront the Swedish mercenaries. For me, SAXON was a step up from THE EASTERN FRONT although it still falls well below the high standard Flint set in the opening book in the series.
Three StarsReviewed 5/29/12
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