Monday, July 5, 2010

A Brief Noted Review: A Return to 1632 and Nearby Worlds

Flint, Eric. Worlds: The Best of Eric Flint’s Short Fiction. Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2009. 559 Pages. Cloth. $25.00.  (N)

Flint, Eric, editor. Grantville Gazette V: Sequels to 1632. Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2009. 456 Pages. Cloth $25.00. (N)

I enjoy history. I enjoy science fiction. And my favorite kind of fiction includes both. Usually, it is called "alternate history." Some deem it "contrafactual history." Yes, some of the facts are intentionally wrong. Hitler won WWII. The South won "The [First] War Between the States."

And then there is the strange story of how a trilingual edition of the Lutheran Confessions, the 1921 Concordia Triglotta ended up being reprinted (yes, reprinted) in the 1630's in Germany.

Welcome to the "Worlds" of author Eric Flint.

Flint most often deals with worlds of rewritten history too big for as short story or a single novel. We're talking multi-volume multi-author collaborative series. The 1632 "universe" has about 15 volumes to date. Let me bring you up to speed.

In the year 2000, a mysterious event transports a West Virginia coal mining town back to 1632 in the middle of the Germanies just in time to intervene in what we call the Thirty Years War. Modern inventions (especially weapons) make a big impact leading to an Emperor Gustavus Adolphus leading a United States of Europe complete with modern arms, aircraft, and radio communications (106) within a matter of years after the arrival of the Americans.

And then there are the Lutherans. Kepler is well-known (336). Luther's translation of the Bible is regularly mentioned (256). The Emperor wants to do Lutheran Mission work (106). Theology is common in these novels (e.g., 52).

Consider this a sample of the world you will encounter in Grantville Gazette V, closely related to its online cousin,, a reference to the name of that WV American town from the future in this print and web compilation of fact and fiction. Online, one can read 29 complete GGs, with #30 in the works as I write. Grantville Gazette V, compiles the best of volumes 5-11 of the online version. After a while, it's hard to keep up/catch up, so the summary model of this and future print Grantville Gazettes is of great help.

Language is often strong. Unfortunately. And that is true of much of Flint's writing. I find it unnecessary to the plot or to character development. There are subtle references to sexuality that make me reluctant to recommend most volumes for teens.

Worlds is another volume of Flint's that crossed my desk. I was otherwise pleasantly surprised by the other imaginative alternate worlds of his imagination showcased in this collection of short stories.

After an imaginative romp with a Roman army in India (The Belisarius Series), four short stories represent the aforementioned 1632 Series. I will again object to the language and the caricature of Martin Luther (91).

There are stories of the far future and of armed rodents. The author has a religious, even Christian background or current confession, but it is often challenging to decipher whether words are coming from the author's mouth or that of a literary creation.

The benefit I see in the writing of Eric Flint for our readers is that it provides another (unique) way to study historical theology in the world of "what might have been." Perhaps a future project could be one where Katherina von Bora married her intended post-convent suitor so that the Pope could have named Luther a cardinal! Just a thought, Mr. Flint...

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.