1632 for Timeslip Tuesday

Welcome to another edition of Timeslip Tuesday--as always, please leave me a link if you'd like to share a review! Today I offer an adult book, shelved as Fantasy in my library--1632, by Eric Flint (2000). This is available as a free e-book here, if you want to check it out. It is a wildly popular book, with sequels and fanfiction galore (here's the wikipedia link).

In the year 2000, Granitville, West Virginia, is whisked away by alien forces and plunked down in the past--in the year 1631, Thuringia, Germany. This is a bad time to be in Germany--the Thirty Years War is raging, and mercenary armies are wrecking havoc in name of religion and various European powers.

Once the shock of the actual time travel fades, Mike, the leader of the local United Mine Workers of America, leads a party of men out to see what's happened. What they find is rape and pillage, literally. Guns blazing, the men of the UMWA rescue the victims, and begin a course of military action and political maneuvering that will shift the balance of power in Europe. The folks of Grantville are stuck, so they decide to rebuild the United States in 17th-century Europe, and bring the Bill of Rights to a place and its people that badly need them.

There are great characters here--a favorite of mine is Julie, once a cheerleader, now the best sharpshooter in the Grantville army, but there are lots of others. Many are true heroes, many are entertaining, some are thought provoking. But mainly, it is awfully fun to cheer on the good guys as they wreck havoc among the rapers and pillagers arrayed against them. Despite the fact that I am a pacifist at heart. Alright, maybe this book is rather violent. I did skip some of the war bits, of which there were many, and I did prefer the "how can we build a civilization here in this alien wilderness" plot line. But at a time when the USA is stuck in a stupid war, it was a nice change to be able to cheer on my countrymen as they fight with reason and right on their side for the creation of a better world. It is also not often that one gets to cheer for the UMWA, for the ex-Vietnam vets, for the regular people of West Virginia, all bent on bringing civilization, including such details as religious tolerance, into a dark time. I found the flag of the new United States, with its single star, rather poignant.

Flint is not shy about using his story as a vehicle to express his political opinions, and one issue, in particular, is addressed head on. When the reality of their situation dawns on them, a Town Meeting is held in the high school gym to discuss options. Some of the time travellers argue that the only way to protect the American Way of Life in the seventeenth century is to close the boarders of Grantville, and keep out the unhappy people of Germany. Mike, the UMWA leader, comes in strongly on the other side--as well as being stupid from a military and economic point of view, welcoming refugees from the violent insanity outside Grantville is a crucial step toward creating a new United States based on the principles that make the idea of the USA worthwhile. Shades of today's immigration debate.

Timeslip wise, there isn't a whole lot of exploration of the American's psychological reaction to the time they find themselves in than (other then their repeated realization that things stink for the plain people of Germany). After all, they've travelled with their whole town, so it's not as disturbing as travelling back alone. And by the second half of the book, the story was almost exclusively military and political, and less social and economic (which is the side of things, being an anthropological archaeologist, that I like better). But my gosh, this was a cracking good read.

I would enthusiastically recommend this one to older teenagers, especially boys. There is one pretty explicit sex scene, but I don't think it's anything that will come as a surprise to that audience. There is also a bit of disemboweling,heads being blow apart, and that sort of thing, a bit like a violent video game. Despite this, I am also going to recommend this book to my mother, protective of her though I am.

This book is also going to be featured in my Syllabus of European History as Learned Through the Reading of Historical Fiction. I am infinitely more knowledgeable know about the Thirty Years War and continental Europe in the first half of the seventeenth century (thinking about this, I am realizing that the reason I know so little about 18th century is that I have no favorite historical fiction from this century. Any thoughts?)

I wish that Eric Flint had included a copy of the Bill of Rights, which is featured so prominently. I was ashamed at my total inability to recall much of anything about it. So, because it is rather an important document that deserves to be read, I am leaving the topic of books to present the Bill of Rights, which are the first ten amendments to the Constitution:

* First Amendment – Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause; freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; right to petition

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

* Second Amendment – Right to keep and bear arms.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

* Third Amendment – Protection from quartering of troops.

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

* Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

* Fifth Amendment – due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain.

No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

* Sixth Amendment – Trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

* Seventh Amendment – Civil trial by jury.

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

* Eighth Amendment – Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

* Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

* Tenth Amendment – Powers of states and people.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Colleen, at Chasing Ray, suggested that this month those of us blogging about books consider books that have political messages, so this is my contribution! The link above takes you to the page where she's rounding up relevant posts, if you have one you'd like to share...

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