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Ring of Fire cover Ring of Fire by Eric Flint (ed.)

Cover by Dru Blair

Published by Baen Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Almost from the beginning, Eric Flint actively sought the advice of readers on Baen's Bar in creating his novel of a West Virginia mining town sent backward in time to the Thirty Years' War. Although well-read in a variety of fields, he knew that no one person could possibly be an expert in enough fields to give the story the depth that it needed -- but that the Barflies would have among their number people expert in these fields, who worked with these issues as a part of their daily livlihood.

Although 1632 was originally intended as a stand-alone, the world took a life of its own. Eric joined forces with David Weber, better known for the Honor Harrington series of space opera, to write a sequel, 1633. And Eric invited the Barflies to write stories telling of some of the side stories of the two novels, of the little things that often escape notice in a book about world-shaking events.

Stories like "When the Chips are Down," of a young man's search for belonging in a world where most of the people and things he's taken for granted are gone. Or "American Past Time," about straitened ambitions and their rebirth in new form. Or "Skeletons," a story of sin and redemption with a miuimum of overtly religious elements.

And some not-so-little stories, setting the stage for future novels in the story, like "In the Navy," David Weber's story setting up key elements of the naval side of 1633 -- and John Chandler Simpson's transformation from strawman villain to complex human being. Or "Between the Armies," in which Andrew Dennis sets the stage for the novel he'll be co-writing with Eric, dealing with Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church.

And then there are the stories that help support Eric's own contribution, "The Wallenstein Gambit." By Eric's own admission in the introduction, this story of politics and Judaism in Prague is a keystone to the eventual thrust of the series. And David Freer's "A Lineman for the Country," Jody Dorsett's "The Three Rs" and K.D. Wentworth's "Here Comes Santa Claus" (a wonderful seasonal piece in its own right) all develop characters who play key roles in this pivotal story of personal and societal transformation.

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Review posted January 21, 2004

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