Tuesday, March 8, 2011

“Ring of Fire” Edited by Eric Flint

This is an anthology put together by Eric Flint. It takes place in the same universe as his novel “1632”. The stories are all set in the two or three years after the Ring of Fire occurred.

One rather interesting thing about this anthology is how important several of these stories are. “To Dye For” by Mercedes Lackey helps set the stage for “The Galileo Affair”, and Mercedes Lackey isn’t a coauthor for any of the novels. This anthology deliberately shows the important work done by people other than the main characters in “1632”. As Eric Flint puts it near the end of his introduction to this anthology,

“In the nature of things, fictional series – like biographies – tend to give the illusion that history marches more-or-less lockstep with the actions of the main characters of the story. That’s almost inevitable, given the very nature of narrative. But it is an illusion, and I wanted to avoid it as much as possible in the unfolding 1632 series.”

The overall work is interesting both for that reason and because of the way it fits in with the unfolding alternate history. It can be read online in the Baen Free Library.

Here are some brief comments on each of the stories.

“In the Navy” by David Weber
This short story shows how Mike gives John Simpson command of the new Navy. It also shows how Eddie becomes attached to Simpson. It also humanizes Simpson, compared to his portrayal in “1632”.

“To Dye For” by Mercedes Lackey
This short story shows more about Tom Stone. It shows his marijuana and medical herbs. It also shows his unwillingness to make a profit off his medicines. Then the main part of the story shows how he gets approval to wed Magda. This helps a little bit when he shows up rich with a German wife in “1634: The Galileo Affair”.

“A Lineman for the Country” by Dave Freer
This story introduces Ellie Anderson, Len Tanner, and Dougal Lawrie. Ellie and Len are uptime experts with phone technology. Dougal is a downtime Scotsman and dispatch rider. Together they decide to create a telecommunications company. They show up in later stories in Prague helping Wallenstein setup a phone network.

“Between the Armies” by Andrew Dennis
Here is the first time the reader meets Mazarini and Gus Heinzerling. This longer story shows how Gus Heinzerling came to be the curate of the Catholic Church in Grantville, St Mary’s. It also describes Father Mazzare’s transition from being quiet about the changes since the 1600’s to giving Mazarini the text of documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992 ed), and an authorized English translation of the Bible. This is an interesting story in part because it sets up relationships that matter in later stories, most notably in “1634: The Galileo Affair”.

“Biting Time” by Virginia DeMarce
This is the story of Veronica Richter, Gretchen’s grandmother. It winds along through Ronnie getting a set of dentures, to the courtship of Henry Dreeson, to the opening of the first of her St. Veronica’s Preparatory Schools.

“Power to the People” by Loren K. Jones
This is the story of events at the power station when the Ring of Fire occurred. It follows a pair of workers at the power station that lose their families by the event.

“A Matter of Consultation” by S.L. Viehl
In this story Anne Jefferson and Sharon Nichols begin by trying to make contact with the best of the local herbalists, Tibelda. Things go downhill when Tibelda and Anne are grabbed by some local farmers looking for help treating another local farmer with a heart problem. Unfortunately an English doctor, Dr. Harvey, brought the unwell farmer to the village. When Tibelda gives the farmer a potion Harvey accuses both she and Anne of poisoning the farmer. Adam Olearius arrives with Sharon, Balthazar, Hans, and Grechen, which saves Anne and Tibelda from being burned as witches. Adam begins his courtship of Anne and Harvey gets a brief copy of the history of Charles I of England.

“Family Faith” by Anette M. Pedersen
Here is the story of an ex-Jesuit, Johannes, trained in drawing and painting. He spends time recovering from a nasty cough talking with an old friend, the son of his father’s Reeve, who now runs his family’s estate. He speaks of the terrible things he saw in the war and of his nephew, now lost in the chaos. After he gets better Johannes travels to Grantsville following the last clue to his nephew’s whereabouts.

“When the Chips are Down” by Jonathan Cresswell & Scott Washburn
This is an amusing little story about how Larry Wilds endeavors to create a recipe for potato chips.

“American Past Time” by Deann Allen & Mike Turner
This story focuses on Billy and Conrad. Billy is an uptime kid that was planning on going into Major League Baseball. Conrad is a downtime German with a talent for batting. As Billy tries to come to grips with the Ring of Fire by playing baseball with whoever will play he finds that more and more of the downtimers are able to hit his pitches.

“Skeletons” by Greg Donahue
This is the story of how a downtimer that served in Tilly’s army deals with some of the skeletons in his past. He also deals with a trio of murderous ex-mercs.

“A Witch to Live” by Walt Boyes
This is a rather simple story of a woman accused of witchcraft. Fredrich von Spee makes an appearance as her defense attorney. It quietly explains how von Spee ends up in Grantville.

“The Three R’s” by Jody Dorsett
This story serves as an introduction to Bishop Comenius, Deacon Jan, and Red Sybolt. It also sets the stage for the events in Prague in later stories. Other than that it isn’t all that interesting.

“Here Comes Santa Claus” by K.D. Wentworth
This is a thoroughly amusing story as General Pappenheim is conscripted to play Santa in Julie Mackey’s Christmas event. It also serves to set up Prague.

“The Wallenstein Gambit” by Eric Flint
This novella by Eric Flint describes how Wallenstein defects from the Austrian Habsburgs. Wallenstein seizes Prague with the help of the Roths, Ellie and Len, Red Sybolt, and a young and eager Abrabanel.

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