Archive for October 14th, 2010

Island in the Sea of Time by SM Stirling

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I forget how I stumbled on the Nantucket series, but I did so when I was re-discovering sailing with Gabi a couple of years back. I’m not a big fan of alternative history fiction; it always strikes me as medium-lazy thinking. Change one thing in history (Hitler defeats England and invades the US) and follow it to its logical conclusions. Not very interesting.

This was different. The Island of Nantucket, along with a Navy training sailing ship, are transported to 1250BC. Stirling really worked in a wealth of information and data. Is a lathe really able to create another lathe from scratch? Sailing information is all accurate, so far as I know. Geography, economics, social interactions and, naturally, history are all interwoven here at an apparently high level.

When I first read this, I thought of it as a guilty pleasure (“I’m not supposed to like these books, but this one is cool.”). Recently, I bumped into a Charles Stross blog where he praised Stirling and specifically the Nantucket series.

Now armed with the warm recommendation of my favorite current era hard science fiction writer, I pull out the book again. Wow, this is more fun than I remember! And I’m going to read it with Wikipedia open the whole way through so I can really appreciate the data dump that Stirling weaves together here.

Highly recommended.

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UPDATE: Funny reading this book, as it was written in about 1996. For all time shifting problems that are in the book, there are several that you have to put yourself through to enjoy this pre-Internet series. Cameras still had film, computers were not ubiquitous (or really necessary, for the most part). Cellular phones were highly unusual and are mentioned in passing once (someone uses one in the first couple of days after the Event). The only mention of the Internet is that a number of Internet addicts were badly hit. Odd the substantial things that change in 14 years.