Northern Germany, 1632, and things weren't going so well for anyone living there. Famine, disease and religious war were the norm and where, if you were a peasant, death was a merciful release. In Grantville, West Virginia in the year 2000, all is peachy and most of the town, including the local branch of the UMWA (United Mine Workers of America) are attending a wedding and having a great time. Suddenly, there's a blinding flash and thunder rattles the windows.
When Mike Stearns leads an armed group of the wedding guests out to investgate the source of the flash, they find the road into town cut as with a knife and, on the other side, a scene out of Hell. A man is being nailed to a farmhouse door while his wife and daughter are being attacked by a bunch of men in steel vests. Mike and his boys don't need to think twice and are in no doubt as who needs shooting, bringing good ol' American style justice into the middle of the Thirty Years' War.
Having read the summary while browsing through the books in Forbidden Planet and noticing that it was reduced in price, I thought it might be a light and mildly amusing read. While it certainly isn't that amusing, it is a decent work of pure fantasy and allows us to speculate on an alternate version of reality, a kind of "what-if" the path of history was changed by a visit from aliens with superior technology and completely different moral and cultural values.
I quite enjoyed it and the author has successfully meshed the story in and around a pretty true depiction of the known history of the period. To the eternal shame of Scottish education, I haven't previously encountered anything about the Thirty Years' War or indeed very much about European history of the period during my school years so it was even an educational experience and it made a very entertaining read. It's a pity that there's no sister story about what happened to the chunk of 17th century Germany that Grantville replaced but the prologue does try to explain a little about what happened after Granville vanished.
The idea of dropping a pretty much gun-crazy bunch of Americans into the middle of a historical war-zone is precious stuff and it works very well. I couldn't help wondering if the author had intended any parallels with Afghanistan or Iraq as, while the yanks have superior fire-power, the locals are a force to be reckoned with, regardless of their technological inferiority and they have an almost inexhaustible supply of cannon-fodder on their side.
1632 has spawned an enormous trail of books and spin-offs and a huge fan-base and it can be read or downloaded in various e-book formats for free from the Baen Free Library, where I noticed that they also have the sequel to it available so I might give that a try and save a few quid as well.
Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Historical Drama.
My Rating: 6/10