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    Review of 1634: THE RAM REBELLION by Eric Flint with Virginia DeMarce


    Baen, April 2006

    Using modern technology, the Grantville West Virginians somehow sent into middle of Germany during the 30 years war have carved out a useful alliance with Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus--and granted official rule over several provinces. Unfortunately, the West Virginians don't have the manpower or resources to officially control all of these lands--much less to impose their democratic political structure on a location where many of the local nobles are strong allies of Adolphus. Even Grantville leader and ex-union leader Mike Stearns knows that his revolutionary committees can't do the complete job. Still, sending a few bureaucrats seems like an exercise in futility.

    In a series of stories and a short novel, Eric Flint (see more reviews of novels by Flint), Virginia DeMarce, and a number of other authors describe the development of democracy in Franconia, one of the areas deeded over to Grantville. Beginning with micro-stories of Grantville itself--the issues of land ownership as a West Virginia farmer tries to purchase enough land for a profitable farm, of breeding high-wool sheep, and creating a ballet company, the story then broadens into the activities of various Americans and allied Germans as they attempt to create a new world.

    What makes the 1632 series fresh and interesting is that it builds the story--and the political/economic success of the West Virginians and the incipient democracy they create--upon ordinary people. A small farmer wants to buy some land--and exposes the complexities of ownership--and a partial solution. A woman wants sheep with good wool--and accidentally launches a symbol of the eventual revolution. A woman wants to see the Nutcracker ballet--and introduces this part of modern culture to the world of 1634. Ultimately, it is the Germans, the 'downtimers' as the West Virginians refer to them, who must create the revolution that will allow democracy to succeed. By design, therefore, 1634: THE RAM REBELLION avoids the pitched battles and movement of armies that is common in alternate history.

    Sympathetic as I am with Flint and co.'s intention, not all of the stories that make up this collection are worth reading. Stories of Brillo, the Ram, are important only in that they symbolize the ultimate agricultural revolt. We could have done with a three page summary rather than the 100+ pages they got. Some of the stories--Bypass Surgery, for example, combine clever ideas and sound economics. Others seemed simplistic, as does the ultimate revolution itself.

    1634: THE RAM REBELLION is important in that it looks at what happens after the big war, after the conquering heroes have used their superweapons and defeated the enemy. As Flint and Co. point out, winning the hearts and minds of the survivors is harder. Too often, SF avoids this--as if winning a battle automatically means that the ideals of the victors will prevail or even survive. It's a tough delivery--and one that, RAM doesn't always achieve. Still, it's a worthwhile attempt.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 8/13/06

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