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Grantville Gazette II by Eric Flint (editor)

Cover art by Tom Kidd

Published by Baen Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

The Grantville Gazette was originally created as an e-zine because Eric Flint had so many more wonderful stories than he could possibly use for the Ring of Fire anthology but still wanted them to reach an audience. When the first did better than expected, it was printed up as a paperback book with an additional story by Eric Flint. Because its sales exceeded hopes, Baen decided to publish future volumes in hardcover with subsequent paperback.

Eric Flint starts this volume with "Steps in the Dance," another story of the American embassy in besieged Amsterdam. Harry Lefferts, the one-man covert operations department of the New US state department, proves that there are some things that really do frighten him. Like posing for a famous downtime painter.

In "Collateral Damage," Mike Spehar tells the story of Jesse Wood's bombing raid on Paris. The Colonel has some very personal reasons to carry out this mission, but some of his targets are a source of bewilderment to Cardinal Richelieu. Although His Eminence has seen some uptime histories and has some notion of what would have happened had the Ring of Fire not upset everything, he is a politician rather than a historian, and as such some things have escaped his notice.

"Euterpe, Episode 1" by Enrico M. Toro is the first half of a continuing story (the second can be found in Grantville Gazette III) dealing with the reactions of downtime musicians and instrument makers to uptime musical instruments and techniques. His principal characters are actual historical figures rather than fictional creations, which may add an extra level of interest for those familiar with the history of music.

Christopher James Weber gives us a humorous adventure in "The Company Men," in which two ex-mercenaries are sent to rescue an embassy from the Mughal Empire who have been held in a sort of genteel imprisonment in Innsbruck. However, it seems that the Habsburgs have used the time to give their "guests" some books stolen from Grantville -- books that put the worst possible spin on European civilization and that fairly guarantee future hostility.

People familiar with English aristocracy of the time may well note that it is hinted rather broadly that North is a relation of some degree to the Lord North who was Prime Minister during the American Revolution. However, it's more of an interesting aside, and not necessary to the enjoyment of the story.

"God's Gifts" by Gorg Huff is a more intimate and personal story of a crisis of faith brought about by a downtime Lutheran pastor's interactions with uptimers.

In "Bottom Feeders" John Zeek gives us a murder mystery that helps illuminate the cultural and social faultines between theuptimers and the downtime immigrants. When one of the habitues of the notorious Club 250 is found on the front yard of the town funeral home with wounds that clearly speak of murder, it's easy to conclude that the culprit is the downtimer whom he cheated in a business deal. Thus it falls to the duo of Officers Marvin Tipton and Jurgen Neubert to investigate the murder, since each of themis familiar with one half of the new society that is being built within the Ring of Fire. However it is soon revealed that his killer came from far closer to home, and the motive came from the tangled thicket of redneck relationships.

Danita Lee Ewing gives us an inside loop on the problems of introducing modern medical science and practice to the 1600's in "An Invisible War." Convincing downtimers of the validity of such concepts as the germ theory of disease is often a surprisingly easy first step. The really hard part is actually overcoming institutional resistance that makes it difficult for uptimers to teach in downtime schools, an essential part of any program to speed the dissemination of uptime medical information to any sort of culturally significant rate. For instance, the downtime insistence on Latin as the language of scholarship often proves to be a significant obstacle for even the physicians, let alone the various allied health professionals, doing a speaking engagement. Thus the title carries meanings beyond the obvious one of the war against the invisible germs that are the agents of so many diseases that trouble downtime society.

In addition to the fiction there are also three excellent articles -- one on fencing, one on the practical difficulties of bringing modern telecommunications to the 1600's, and one on metallurgy. There is also a fascinating piece which purports to be written by a downtimer trying to integrate modern chemical science into the chemistry of the 1600's, which was still closer to alchemy than modern chemistry.

Table of Contents

  • Preface by Eric Flint

Fiction

  • "Steps in the Dance" by Eric Flint
  • "Collateral Damage" by Mike Spehar
  • "Euterpe,Episode I" by Enrico M.Toro
  • "The Company Men" by Christopher James Weber
  • "Just One of Those Days" by Leonard Hollar
  • "God's Gifts" by Gorg Huff
  • "Bottom Feeders" by John Zeek
  • "An Invisible War" by Danita Ewing

Fact

  • "A Quick and Dirty Treatise on Historical Fencing" by Enrico M. Toro
  • "So You Want to Do Telecommunications in 1632?" by Rick Boatright
  • "Mente et Malleo: Practical Mineralogy and Minerals Exploration in 1632" by Laura Runkle
  • "The Secret Book of Zink" by Andrew Clark

Review posted March 30, 2009

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