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    Review of ON THE OCEANS OF ETERNITY by S. M. Stirling (see his website)

    ROC, May 1999

    The twentieth century residents of Nantucket, cast back into the bronze age, have the advantage of their technology and command structures, but those advantages are no longer unique. Walker, a renegade, has set himself up as King over Greece and has besieged Troy. His ally, Isketerol, controls Spain and the straits of Gibralter restricting Nantucket's ability to send aid to their allies--Babylon. And Walker's schemes take in Egypt too, hoping to catch Babylon from two sides.

    Fortunately, thanks to a modern U.S. marine training regime, and to incredible luck, the Nantucketers are impossible to defeat in a battle. Friendly bullets fly true and smash great holes in enemy lines. Enemy gunshot is pathetic, killing a few to give our heros a chance to grieve, but not doing significant military damage. Even Walker's few victories are empty as the Nantucketers sucker him deeper into empty territory.

    ON THE OCEANS OF ETERNITY is the third in S. M. Stirling's alternate history series about the republic of Nantucket. By now, ten years after the 'event,' Nantucket has pretty well melded its 20th century technology with the industrial capabilities of the bronze age world (see more reviews of novels by Stirling). The scenes set in Nantucket, therefore, lose some of the immediacy and interest that post-event survival tactics held. In ON THE OCEANS OF ETERNITY, it is the non-Nantucket kingdoms that are most interesting. Isketerol's attempts to balance his people's traditions with the new technology, and Walker's effort to overcome the entire Island's technological advantage with speed and hard work are the highlights of the novel.

    Stirling follows alternate history convention by running multiple sub-plots simultaneously--Chief Cofflin in Nantucket, Commodore Marion Alston-Kurlelo and her lover, Swindapa with the Nantucket fleet, Walker, Isketerol, and Ranger Peter Giernas in California. Some of these stories are interesting. Others do little to advance the plot or demonstrate the clash of civilizations that make alternate history so interesting.

    I loved ISLAND IN THE SEA OF TIME--the first book in this series but I think that Stirling would have served himself and his readers better if he'd shortened the sequel to one book instead of two, created more suspense, and really gotten into what technologies made the difference.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 10/06/03

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