Book Review: 1632

1632 by Eric Flint

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise of 1632 is fantastic. Take a 15 mile radius chunk of present-day West Virginia, complete with all its inhabitants, stores, infrastructure, and everything, and transport it back to 1632, right in the middle of the Thirty Years War, smack dab of the thick of things in Thüringen. Then wait and see what happens. How will the present-day Americans respond? What will the people from 1632 think of them?

In practice, it doesn’t play out quite to the level of that initial premise. Don’t get me wrong: I had a great time reading the book, for the most part. It’s a page turner, and it’s a lot of fun. But at the same time, the answer to the founding question was just too focused on a single note: “‘Murica!” Because naturally the Americans are going to respond to threats by using their superior firepower. But it just keeps playing that note over and over.

The Americans quickly convince the people in their area that the new way is the best way, which I could understand. Who doesn’t like modern conveniences? And when the surrounding kings and rulers begin to hear about the new innovations, they respond in various ways. Some are threatened and attack, and some reach out to become allies. But always it comes back to “America’s way is the best way,” with almost no portrayal of anything that might conflict with that worldview.

There are no real obstacles that a high powered hunting rifle and a heavily armored truck can’t dispatch with a bit of work. None of the characters every really feel threatened, with the exception of one scene. In many ways, a lot of the book feels like a Shakespearean comedy, with all the people finding marriage partners and pairing off left and right, and there being no cultural conflicts at all to speak of. People in 1632 are pretty much like people today, it seems. There’s a token effort to show that there are a few West Virginians who don’t like the mixing of the peoples, but by and large, everyone agrees with each other.

Which made the whole book just feel too pat. Too much like wish fulfillment, and bloody wish fulfillment at that. There’s certainly a whole heaping serving of violence doled out through the book. On the one hand, I get it. It’s an action-based book, and it’s cool to see Americans get to play the Thirty Years War with God Mode enabled. But it’s all relished a bit too much. I felt a tad . . . icky by the end. There were no consequences to the violence. There were good guys and bad guys, and the bad guys had to be napalmed to be stopped.

So it felt like empty calories, when all was said and done. I finished the book, but I won’t read any more in the series. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because there just wasn’t enough there for me to want to keep going. If the concept and the violence and the America is Awesome description sounds up your alley, you’ll love this series.

It just got to be a bit much for me, and there are other books out there I want to read as well.

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