Andy's Anachronisms
Time Travel Movie Reviews

Eric Flint
© 2000


A modern-day small coal-mining town in West Virginia is inexplicably transported to 17th century northern Germany. The residents of Grantville get a rude awakening when they find their town has been transplanted into the middle of the Thirty Years' War. Resigned to the fact they may be stuck in the past indefinitely, the residents of Grantville band together determined to preserve the American way of life at any cost.


A thoroughly American novel, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it despite its entire flag waving, shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude. Combining elements of a traditional post-apocalyptic society with a healthy dose of alternate history, author Eric Flint manages to create an entertaining novel that remains accessible to non-historians on many levels. The novel prominently features the Swedish warrior-king Gustavus Adolphus II and his role in the Thirty Years' War.

The group of resourceful West Virginian's lead by Mike Stearn and supported by the local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) attempt to start their own American Revolution a hundred forty odd years early and a continent away much to the dismay of the lords and barons of the day. Buoyed by their superior technology and modern sense of social justice, the residents of Grantville set about reshaping Germany in its own image. I felt that author Eric Flint succeeded in managing to walk a thin line between holding up American society as the pinnacle western civilization and pointing out the underlying reality of modern America's darker side. Careful not to give too much credit to the character's from modern America, Flint let's the air out of his characters on several occasions. In one scene a doctor from Grantville, while speaking to a doctor of the 1600s, realizes that despite his modern knowledge of medicine his is woefully inadequate when it comes to foreign languages used to study traditional medical texts.

I also appreciated the fact that Flint avoided playing up the "magic" of the modern technology to the locals. Flint actually makes the point of explaining that the people of the time would be somewhat familiar with the technology in its various forms and albeit still very superstitious and fearful of magic, but not easily tricked into believing technology such as an automobile was the work of magic.

Eric Flint manages to take ground broken by L. Sprague deCamp in Lest Darkness Fall [1939] and by Mark Twain in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court [1889] and make it his own. An interesting sub-genre of Alternate History, I believe the application of modern technology to bring about change in the past is a unique product of our time. As a result of the bewildering rate of technological growth that the world has seen in the past 200 years the contrast between the technology of today and even one generation ago is fascinating to examine. A central theme of time travel literature is often the contrasting of one culture or time period with another and in the novel 1632 we see this applied to the culture as well as the technology of the two periods.

Working with a group of colourful and resourceful characters I felt Flint managed to achieve something that I had not experienced since Stephen King's The Stand [1978] with its post-apocalyptic theme and engaging characters. In the afterword to 1632, the author points out that all too often the common fold that built America, blue collar workers, teachers, etc are absent from the story or regulated to stereotypes and extras. Thankfully with this novel Eric Flint has sought to tip the scales in favour of the everyman in this type of story. I eagerly recommend this book to fans of the genre as well as casual SF readers alike.

Review Posted 2001-05-10

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