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Ring of Fire II by Eric Flint
Cover Artist: Tom Kidd
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781416573876
Date: 01 January 2008 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

What if a modern town went back in time a few hundred years? That is the basic premise of the 1632 universe. A small West Virginia town, Grantville, is propelled back to 1632 Franconia, Germany. These up-timers must learn to survive in a less refined time. These are their stories.

Ring of Fire II is another set of short stories set in the 1632 universe. The stories cover events that occur relatively close to the actual change all the way to events shortly after the Baltic War. Stories in this collection are a little more closely related to the main story lines and events. Less centrally related but still entertaining are the stories that comprise the Grantville Gazette. This collection is also different in that the stories are not as closely related as the ones that were in The Ram Rebellion.

Author Eric Flint gives an informative and interesting rundown of the 15 stories in this collection. Characters developed in earlier books and collections are developed along with a few new ones. Noelle Murphy and her partner Eric are back in a couple of the stories; the one story by Eric Flint centers around them and an increasing connection with Austria-Hungarians.

My two favorite stories were "Diving Belle" and "Command Performance". "Diving Belle" is the story about the initial steps taken to raise the Vasa. This is a large ship that sank in the Stockholm harbor. It contains riches and is an embarrassment to the crown. Unfortunately, someone seems set on sabotaging the venture. "Command Performance" is the story of Marla Linder and her move to Magdeburg. It also provides the story of her engagement to violinist Franz Sylwester. There is also a side story that relates to the movement of the cultural center of Europe. I especially enjoyed the lyrical moments. The story features several Irish songs attributed to the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Owning a couple of their CDs made it easy to imagine the songs as the characters sang them. Having heard various artists do the same song, it can be hard to lock in just how a song is performed, but in this case there is a very solid basis for comparison. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem definitely do songs like "The Irish Rover" differently from The Pogues.

One of the things that I like about the 1632 universe is that the characters are allowed to be flawed. They often are given the chance for redemption, but don't always take it. One note is that some readers may be offended by the actions of some characters. Serious relations up to and including marriage seem to take place at a much earlier point than many modern readers may expect or feel comfortable with. It is easy to forget that it wasn't that long ago that marriage between people of disparate ages was a regular occurrence and still is in some cultures.

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