Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 2, 2007

1632 by Eric Flint

We discussed 1632 at the North Village Library, where we had nine participants, including three first-time attendees. One member had been lobbying for us to discuss this book for at least three years. Four of us had read Flint previously. Eight of us had started 1632, and all eight finished. One additional member submitted comments by email.

In this book, the small mining town of Grantville, West Virginia is whisked from the year 2000 to Germany in the middle of the Hundred Years’ War. The townspeople immediately must defend themselves and figure out how to get food, energy, and other necessities of life. Along the way they make powerful allies and enemies, and they have to fight many battles.

We liked a lot about this book. It fits well into the “go back in time and reinvent technology” tradition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Lest Darkness Fall, and many others. The historical look at science and industry was fun. The characters of the townspeople and the locals they encounter are well-developed, and we especially liked the strong women. One of our favorite characters was Jeff, the motorcycle-riding nerd hero. We enjoyed the appearance of historical figures like Gustavus Adolphus and Cardinal Richelieu. Several people commented that the fast-moving action and soap opera relationships made the book “popcorn “ or  “beach reading,” but that can be a good thing.

There were issues. One person wished the story had more science fictional elements beyond the time travel sequence at the start of the book. Another simply was not interested in reading detailed description of military battles. Two people mentioned being disturbed by a teenage girl being turned into a “sharpshooting killing machine.”

This led to a discussion of the political issues explored in the book. We liked its examination of church vs. state politics. One person suggested this town represented the Jeffersonian ideal of small town democracy. We had split opinions of the book’s message of “democracy is great no matter where or when.”  When we tried to figure out the author’s own political leanings, one person suggested “Trotskyist.”

A couple of people in the group were big fans of the 1632 world. They spoke enthusiastically about this book’s sequels, the published fan fiction, and the unpublished fan fiction available online. They told us about the phenomenal fan community and the cons-within-cons held to celebrate 1632.

Overall this was a good book, and many of us who were initially dubious about it  (myself included), bought the sequel, 1633. After the meeting, we had a nice dinner at Waterloo Ice House.

–A. T. Campbell, III