1636: The Kremlin Games (Ring of Fire)
by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett
Cover Artist: Tom Kidd
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451637762
Date: 05 June 2012 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Ring of Fire created many opportunities for the people of Grantville downtime. Some missed out originally. The Kremlin Games tells the story of Bernie Zeppi, who hadn't had a break, and his journey to Russia. The leaders of Russia need someone that understands uptime technology and can interpret the documents that are being brought in to avoid the future that brings the fall of the Czars.
Russian politics are Byzantine at best. Factions feud and bureaus accumulate powers and ware the nobility that doesn't pay proper respects. Vladimir Petrovich thinks that the mission to Grantville is a fool's errand until he sees the truth with his own eyes. His comrade is Boris Ivanovich. Together they start researching all of the freely available knowledge. They quickly realize that although 1630 English and uptime English are related, they are not the same language. They need someone with a mechanical background. They find their potential interpreter in a random encounter at the Thurigian Gardens. Bernie is wandering aimlessly, drinking himself into oblivion. He takes the offered contract as a way out. Boris guides him to Russia.
The knowledge that is coming from Grantville becomes the property of a new Bureau. This funnel of knowledge and control, improves the lot of a small family, Vladimir's. His sister Natasha leads the development of many of the imported ideas. The simple things like a scraper, improves roads, while more complex farm equipment frees up labor to work in factories. Bernie helps with a general disinterest until the spring fever hits, and then it becomes personal. His passionate fight to help starts to bring about a change that holds hope for a better Russia.
But if things were simple, there wouldn't be a story to tell. The Poles decide that it is time to take Russia. The improvements that are coming from Grantville, will help, but it might not be enough. Even if Russia prevails, the conservative members of the aristocracy don't like the power that is accumulated by someone not of their clique. Revolution is in the air, centuries earlier than originally.
This is another side story in the ongoing Grantville saga. The action is carried on by characters that haven't played a significant role in earlier parts of the series. Although a fun story, it is not the best entry point for new readers. Readers should start with at least 1632 and 1633 first.
This universe is expanding and enjoyable. The project has allowed fans to get involved in the development. Although not the first time travel alternate history series, the Ring of Fire series is now the Gold Standard by which future series will be judged.
There are many stories still to be told about the adventures in this timeline, and I plan to read them all.