Sunday, January 28, 2007

1812 - The Rivers of War - Eric Flint

Overall Rating : B-..
Eric Flint has a bunch of Alternate History books out, the majority of which deal with a 20th-century West Virginia town transported back in time to 1632 Germany. 1812RoW is the first in his next AH series, this one dealing with how a minor change in a battle (Sam Houston receiving a small wound instead of a major one) alters the rest of the War of 1812.
The only problem is - not much history is changed. Yeah, Sam Houston becomes the hero of the battles of Washington DC and New Orleans, but the outcomes remain the same. So if you're looking for some tangential history line, you're going to be sorely disappointed. True, this book serves mostly as a set-up for the second book in this series - where Arkansas becomes a free territory right after the end of the war - where blacks and Indians can live on their own terms. But 535 pages of non-alternate history is a lot to read just for a set-up.
OTOH, is you read this book as a historical novel, then its quite good. Most people's knowledge of the War of 1812 can be distilled down to four vague facts :
1.) It started cuz the British kept stealing our navy men.
2.) John Paul Jones said something about not giving up the ship.
3.) Two years into the war, the British burned Washington D.C. (normally, this means "game over; we win!". but for some reason, they decided to play on.)
4.) We won the Battle of New Orleans, which is important because without that Johnny Horton would've had one less hit song. (Everybody sing now - "In 1814, we took a little trip...")
.This book does a great job of fleshing out the details of the war - particularly how the roles of the Indians (Choctaw, Chickashaw, Creek, and Cherokee) and Blacks (both slaves and freedmen) interplayed with the British, American (and to a lesser degree the French and Spanish) sides.
So if you like History, then by all means get this book. But if you want to read some Alternate History, then pick up his novel 1632 (which is on my bookcase waiting in line to be read), or wait for 1824 The Arkansas War - which is out in hardback, but who wants to shell out 4x the $$$ instead of waiting for the paperback?
As for me, I'm now starting into Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams - Book 11 in the Wheel of Time series. I'll have 837 pages to see whether the plot advances one iota, something that hasn't happened in 4 or 5 volumes.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Black Market - James Patterson

Overall Rating : C+.
I'm way behind on my James Patterson reading. His best efforts involve serial killers and the homicide detective Alex Cross. Unfortunately, Black Market has neither. Wall Street gets blown up, and we spend most of the first half of the book going on wild goose chases. Finally, the story begins to move, and there are a couple nice Dan Brown-esque twists in the latter stages. Still, one yearns for a deranged psychotic killer to show up and slash someone to pieces - anyone - just to spice things up.
What is eerie about this book, however, is the way it foreshadows September 11. Black Market first came out in 1986, and if you substitute the Twin Towers for Wall Street, you get a scenario with uncanny similarities. Perhaps in 500 years, someone will decide that Patterson was a 20th-Century Nostredamus.
All-in-all, it's a decent story, but its never gonna be your favorite Patterson book.