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    Review of ISLAND IN THE SEA OF TIME by S. M. Stirling

    ROC, 1998

    When the entire island of Nantucket is thrown back into the bronze age, the islanders have a problem. Their technology depends too much on imports from the now-vanished mainland. And even feeding the island will be tough--with no grains closer than England. Fortunately, a coast guard training square rigger was caught up in the time event and so the island isn't helpless. But even contacting the bronze age civilizations of Europe, let alone the stone-age cultures of the new world, has its problems. Plague for one thing as the time travellers replicate the European accidental genocide of the Native American population. But the bronze age savages of Europe are tough--and are good enough sailers that they could reach the new world if they knew where to look--and learned what a treasure-trove an entire island of 20th century technology can offer.

    The island has a chance if everyone pulls together and police chief-turned political leader Jared Cofflin and coast guard captain Marian Alston do their best to ensure that everyone does so. Unfortunately, human nature rarely allows pure altrusim. In the case of Nantucket, there are those who want to carve out their own kingdom and those who want to prevent the re-creation of western culture. Either could be dangerous. Together, the two forces might just scuttle any hopes for survival--let alone return to the days of the hot shower.

    Author S. M. Stirling (see more reviews of novels by Stirling) writes an exciting story. A small city like Nantucket has close to the critical mass needed for modern civilization, but lacks the raw materials that are essential to our lives. As the time travellers contact other people, their risk grows. Stirling personalizes Cofflin and Alston, making the reader care about these characters and their attempts to recreate order in the midst of madness. Fans of military SF will enjoy the battle scenes as the Nantucket residents create effective military technology without access to gunpowder or smokeless powder.

    I especially enjoyed Stirling's descriptions of the celtic war bands. With echos of Homer and the Germanic invasions of the late Roman period, the war leaders were proud, generous to followers, and quick to adopt a new military technology. Stirling also hinted at some interesting philosophical questions by setting modern (mostly Christian) people in a world centuries before Jesus, Mohammed, or Plato would be born.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 9/18/03

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