cover image 1636: The Kremlin Games

1636: The Kremlin Games

Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett. Baen, $25 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4516-3776-2

The latest installment of the massively multiauthor Ring of Fire series (after 1636: The Saxon Uprising), chronicling an alternate history in which the modern-day American town of Grantville is transported to the 17th century, stars “up-timer” auto mechanic Bernie Zeppi, who’s hired by Russian prince Vladimir Gorchakov to bring the prince’s country up to speed technologically. There’s a great deal of charm to the reactions of 21st-century Americans when confronted by things they’ve only read about in history books, and likewise in 17th-century Russians trying to decipher Bernie’s gadgets. Technology’s not the most dangerous thing he’s brought, though: his American ideas threaten to bring down Russia as its nobility knows it. The politicking and violence touched off by a spark of democracy prove explosive indeed. The story is better than the writing, but the plain prose manages to stay out of the way of interesting characters and a well-constructed plot filled with satisfying measures of comedy, romance, political intrigue, and action. (June)