Friday, March 11, 2011

“Ring of Fire II” Edited by Eric Flint

This is another anthology set in the world with the Ring of Fire. Eric notes in the preface that these stories are similar to the Grantville Gazette, an online magazine with some issues in print. The main difference is that the stories in both this anthology and the earlier “Ring of Fire” are a little more closely associated with the novels and there aren’t any technical documents included.

This anthology varies in time and location more than the previous anthology, but the quality remains good.

The first 6 stories can be read free on the Baen Free Library.

Here are some brief comments on the 15 stories in the anthology.

“Horse Thieves” by Karen Bergstralh
This is a story of horse traders taking their purchases from France to Grantville. Along the way they run into a group of bandits or soldiers. Five of the horse traders are ex-mercenaries with uptime weapons with an uptimer along for the ride. The uptimer gets cocky and dead. Then the story closes with five ex-mercs against 20 uptime bigots.

“Second Issue?” by Bradley H. Sinor
Yuri, an émigré Russian and reporter, noticed that Papenheim was Santa Claus at the Christmas party. He wrote a story with plenty of speculation and tries to sell it to the “Times”. The editor of the “Times”, Paul, demands proof and together they go looking for it. After Paul gets caught Mike convinces him to sit on the story. They still have to find a way to prevent Yuri from selling the story. Paul comes up with an idea. The only question after that is “When is the second issue coming out?”

“Diving Belle” by Gunnar Dahlin and Dave Freer
Ginny Cochran has left the library in Grantville to work as a secretary to the American Ambassador in Stockholm. While she’s there she enlists a quartet of young men in her plan to prevent a cunning fraud from fleecing the Swedish nobility with a plan to raise the warship, Vasa. The plan is to raise the ship herself… using the frauds money.

“A Gift from the Duchess” by Virginia DeMarce
The Duchess of Tyrol has a gift for the people of the plague stricken city of Kronach. A trio of skilled doctors trained in Padua. The three of them along with Matt Trelli get into Kronach to help control the plague outbreak. After that is wrapped up, also the Ram Rebellion, the doctors get flown to Bernhard. The Duchess has political schemes that are described only broadly.

“Lucky at Cards” by Andrew Dennis
Guilo Mazarini, now Jules Mazarin, has taken service with Cardinal Richelieu and switched to being a French citizen. This little tale revolves around the card table and shows the edges of the struggle between Richelieu’s party and that of Gaston, Duc D’Orleans. It also hints at a developing friendship between Mazarin and Anne of Austria.

“A Trip to Amsterdam” by Gorg Huff & Paula Goodlett
This is a story about David Bartley and OPM. When Don Fernando begins the siege of Amsterdam the Dutch guilder starts to fall like a rock. The USE government wants it propped up so they give David a secure loan. He and Prince Karl Eusebius von Lichtenstein buy quite a lot of guilders, saving the day. Then the decision is reached that Don Fernando needs to be spoken to or it will all be for naught. After long negotiations all return home happy.

“This’ll Be the Day…” by Walt Boyes
This story advances a little further the story of Fredrich von Spee. It covers the day he died in our timeline.

“Command Performance” by David Carrico
This story of Franz Sylwester and Marla Linder advances the story of that group of downtime and uptime musicians. In this tale Mary Simpson has arranged a performance by the group, particularly Marla, for the high notables of the USE.

“Ellis Island” by Russ Rittgers
This very short story blends a remembrance of Ellis Island with the brief story of three refugees striving to reach Grantville.

“Malungu Seed” by Jonathan Cresswell-Jones
This is the story of an ex-Jesuit come across the sea from Brazil. He brings James Nichols cinchona seeds. Quinine can be extracted from them and that prevents malaria. However, there is a problem. It is impossible to verify that he is who he says he is, it is impossible to verify that the seeds are what he says they are, and he’s asking for a great deal of money to fund a trip to plant half of those seeds in Africa.

“Trials” by Jay Robison
This story continues the tale of Artemisia Gentileschi and her daughter Prudentia. After Artemisia moves herself and family to Grantville she gets involved in the trial of a soldier accused of raping a woman in Grantville. She becomes friends with the woman, Sherry Murray.

“The Chase” by Iver P. Cooper
This story of the Barbie Consortium brings William Cavendish, a young Englishman on the Grand Tour, and his tutor Thomas Hobbes to Grantville for a time. The girls are rather taken with him and Heather tries to get a date with him. In the end Judy is the one to win his attention. Then the war with France, Denmark, and England begins and William has to return home.

“Eddie and the King’s Daughter” by K.D. Wentworth
This is the amusing story of how Eddie Cantrell begins his romance with King Christian’s daughter Anne Catherine. They get into a certain amount of trouble and get her fiancé thrown in prison for bragging about giving the Swedes fine ships. There are also the extended negotiations where King Christian attempts to get technology from Grantville in exchange for Eddie. This story feeds into “1634: The Baltic War”.

“Second Thoughts” by Virginia DeMarce
In which Noelle Murphy learns a great deal more of her family history than she expected. This story begins when Noelle returns to Grantville from Franconia. She is dealing with the fallout of her mother and natural father, Dennis Stull, being declared as married. She is also working full time to catch corrupt members of the government in there corruption. By the end of the story her name is Noelle Stull.

“The Austro-Hungarian Connection” by Eric Flint
King Ferdinand III of Austria has gotten himself a nice car now that his father has died. He wants more technology so he sends one of his most trusted cavalry officers, Janos Drugoth, to see to bringing the party from Grantville. Some of these are being pursued by Noelle Stull on account of corruption. When she catches up to the party Janos takes her and Eddie Junkers prisoner until they are about to pass into Bohemia. Noelle isn’t willing to leave things there. She realizes that they must pass through Regensburg. Noelle makes it there in time to see them passing down the river. Then she shoots at Janos. After that is the beginning of an official courtship between Noelle and Janos.

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