Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review: “Grantville Gazette IV” Edited by Eric Flint

This is the fourth anthology of short stories set in the universe of the Ring of Fire. Overall it is an enjoyable collection of stories. The anthology concludes with a series of technical documents describing particular challenges the people of Grantville might face. This is also the last of the paper editions of the Gazette that includes all the stories from the electronic version of the Gazette.

It is every bit as enjoyable as the other editions.

Here are some brief comments on each of the stories included.

“The Anatomy Lesson” by Eric Flint

This story deals with the relocation of Elisabeth Stuart and her brother Rupert from Brussels to Amsterdam. Since they are teenage royal folk this gets a fair amount of attention from the various powerful people. It also touches on the challenge of living with a known alternate history. Rupert, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Wentworth show different ways of handling the difficulty. An interesting story because it looks at the challenge, which is usually ignored.

“Poor Little Rich Girls” by Paula Goodlett and Gorg Huff

This story starts out with the market panic sparked by Guffy Pomeroy’s death. The girls in the Barbie Consortium use the opportunity to pick up good stocks at very good prices. Vicky makes a deal with one Arend Nebel for a thousand stocks of an oven company. The story moves on, Arend realizes that he sold at a low price and is outraged. He pulls in Hennig and Justine his brother-in-law to be and fiancĂ©. He wants them to help him get revenge on Vicky. They refuse and he adds them to his list of intended victims. Arend attacks Justine, which pulls in her new friend Brandy. There is an exchange of confessions that helps with healing for both girls. Arend is caught by the police when he attacks Vicky. Then at the party Brandy’s mother holds to celebrate paying off her mortgage an undiplomatic comment by one of the Barbie Consortium leads to several people asking to be taught more about how to invest. It also sparks an interesting description of the financial situation of Grantville. This is an eventful story.

“’Til We Meet Again” by Virginia DeMarce

This rather sad story shows the state of the mechanical services in Grantville. It also shows how Iona Nelson became free to go to Quendlinburg; teaching music in the women’s college there.

“One Man’s Junk” by Karen Bergstralh

Journeyman Blacksmith Martin Schmidt had not been having a good week. For demanding that he receive journeyman’s wages he has been banned from working as a smith in Grantville. Now he is having dinner with Master Carpenter Glauber. Master Glauber has plans that could make him a healthy profit in Grantville. He hires Martin to assist in clearing out all the junk in a dilapidated shed. Inside they find, as Glauber thought, all the tools a blacksmith would need to setup his own shop. In the end Martin has a rather better week then he expected. This is a fun little story of the shenanigans going on outside the main action in Grantville.

“Chip’s Christmas Gift” by Russ Rittgers Chip Jenkins, who was once nearly slaughtered by Alex Mackey, is visiting with a friend for Christmas. They are both attending the College at Jena. He decides to give the family a special gift for Christmas, by playing on the violin. This isn’t a particularly interesting story though it is well enough written.

“Dice’s Drawings” by Dan Robinson

Dysart (Dice) Clifford is not pleased to find himself in the 1600s. He had been all set to retire from his job as a pressman when the Ring of Fire occurred. Now he has neither a retirement, nor one of his beloved printing presses. Elfriede Schutzen is a cobbler’s widow now in Grantville trying to make a life for herself. They meet while she is collecting dandelions from his yard. He helps her when her son is off playing. She makes him a meal. He shows her his newly constructed printing press. This is another small tale of people finding a balance after the Ring of Fire.

“The Class of ‘34” by Kerryn Offord

This tale of the end of the year for the class of (16)34 reminds me of stories about modern high school classes. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t all that good.

“Magdeburg Marines: The Few and the Proud” by Jose J. Clavell

When Mike Stearns appoints John Simpson as Admiral of the new Navy the Admiral decides that the navy requires the formation of a new Marine Corps. He goes to Duke Hudson, a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant, for the founding NCO of this new Marine Corps. This story describes how several of the major decisions are made in founding that military body. Including how the “Horse Marines” come into being. This is one of the better stories in the collection.

“Elizabeth” by Ernest Lutz and John Zeek

General Jackson has a transport problem. He doesn’t have enough wagons or horses to support the larger army he needs to support and he doesn’t want to pay for the gear for the horses. He makes the mistake of idly grousing about the problem to Henry Dreeson. Jackson is surprised when Henry calls Lieutenant Elizabeth Pitre over. It turns out she has a possible solution, narrow gauge tactical railroads. Jackson takes her by surprise when he appoints her to lead the unit. There are difficulties in the doing, but the story covers how the TacRail division came to be another Grantville addition to the war effort. This is a fun story with a focus on some of the difficulties such a unit could run into.

There is one continuing serial in this volume. “Heavy Metal Music” by David Carrico

This is another installment of the ongoing saga of the musicians Marla and Franz. A short and enjoyable story that adds Master Ingram Bledsoe, Master Hans Riebeck, Friedrich, Anna, and Thomas all come from Mainz to see Franz. This is also the story where Ingram and Hans become partners.

The rest of these are articles describing particular challenges and solutions to be faced by the characters.

“Drillers in Doublets” by Iver P. Cooper

This is a long essay describing the situation Grantville finds itself in regards to oil and natural gas. It discusses where oil can be found, the technologies available, and the geology of oil and gas.

How to Keep Your Old John Deere Plowing” by Allen W. McDonnell

This is a short article describing how to keep the diesel powered tractors of Grantville running. Some could be converted to run on natural gas and some could run on vegetable oil with the addition of a heating element.

“How to Build a Machine Gun in 1634 with Available Technology: Two Alternate Views” First alternative by Leonard Hollar, Tom Van Natta, and John Zeek

The first alternative is an organ or volley gun, a weapon with multiple barrels that can all fire simultaneously. This is described in some detail.

Second alternative by Bob Hollingsworth

The second alternative is very similar to the first. It is a battery gun. It also has multiple barrels, though these are generally laid out next to each other. This article also discusses the available uptime guns, rifles, and ammunition available.

“A Looming Challenge” by Pam Poggiani

This article talks about the various ways to improve the cloth making industry. It begins with the spinning wheel and moves on to the loom. From there it moves into a long discussion of the process of harvesting many different materials for spinning and weaving. This leads into the process of spinning and weaving.