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1634: The Galileo Affair by Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis

Cover art by Tom Kidd

Published by Baen Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

In this novel, the saga of Grantville begins to branch out into multiple independent threads, as the West Virginia coal-mining town transplanted into the Thirty Years' War begins to interact with so many different groups that it is no longer feasable to tell them all simultaneously. This particular novel deals with Grantville's interactions with Italy and the Catholic Church.

Of course, in those days the modern nation-state of Italy did not exist, since it was not created until 1870, with Garibaldi's wars of unification (contemporaneous with Bismark's wars that created the modern nation-state of Germany out of a patchwork of principalities). In 1634, Pope Urban VIII rules a substantial temporal realm right in the middle of Italy, as well as being the spiritual leader of all Catholics. In the north, Venice is still a powerful independent city-state, even if she is no longer "Queen of the Seas" as she was in earlier centuries.

But Grantville has brought theological dynamite along with the advanced weapons and technology with which they've been transforming Northern Europe. Father Mazzare may have had to set aside the Mass of Paul VI and return to the old Tridentine Rite of Pius V, but the attitudes and mindsets of the Second Vatican Council run through the Catholic culture of St. Mary's (formerly St. Vincent de Paul, but the name had to be changed because Vincent de Paul is very much alive in this time).

It starts innocently enough, with a diplomatic mission to Venice for vital trade that may make the difference between life and death for the fledgeling United States of Europe that Mike Stearns is putting together with King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. But when the mission includes three energetic teenagers raised by a superannuated hippie, and puts those three kids in a direct collision course with the local revolutionaries, all hell is about to break loose. Especially considering that Galileo's famous trial has been delayed, and it has suddenly become the emblem of the Church's oppression of progressive forces in the minds of these revolutionaries.

Review posted August 14, 2005

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