This is a fun, though not at all believable romp. I’m a big fan of alternative history, so I was naturally drawn to this book (and the series as a whole) by all the attention it’s received. 1632 is definitely an enjoyable book, and I’d recommend it to science fiction fans in search of a relatively light read.
You’re going to have to seriously exercise your suspension of disbelief when reading this book during a number of passages, but that’s at least somewhat understandable. After all, it wouldn’t be much fun if the protagonists all died off from diseases, couldn’t communicate with the locals, or found that they couldn’t support a modern level of technology using only the infrastructure of a small West Virginian town.
Flint has a couple of bad habits as a writer that really come through in this book: first, it’s very clear that a couple of his major characters are his favorites, and these characters are invariably going to make all the right decisions, always succeed at whatever they do, rapidly become accomplished statesmen and military strategists, and are, in fact, moral paragons — to an unbelievable degree — even in the face of extremely difficult and unfamiliar situations. And second, Flint’s writing style could use some editorial polish. He uses too much exposition (admittedly, the Thirty Years’ War is an extremely complex period and requires a great deal of explanation, but there’s got to be a better way of pulling it off than this) and he has the bad tendency to reuse trite phrases, sometimes every few pages. This gets annoying at times. The characters (mostly modern day West Virginian coal miners) also use a level of vocabulary and sentence structure that real people just don’t use in conversation unless they’re Boston Brahmins. People just don’t speak in half-page long paragraphs, nor do they use words like “pean” in ordinary conversations.
All that aside, read this book, you’ll likely enjoy it if you’re at all interested in the “Baen Books” style of light, military-oriented science fiction adventure novels.
I’d also recommend S. M. Stirling’s Island in the Sea of Time series, which is probably a little more engaging than 1632.
4 stars out of 5
Review copyright 2008 J. Andrew Byers