You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Against the Tide of Years

Against the Tide of Years is the sequel to S. M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time. It's about eight years after the Event that sent Nantucket to the Bronze Age. The Republic of Nantucket has expanded, pulling in immigrants for labor and armed forces from their allies. They have also created settlements across the world and made alliances with foreign governments.

But there is still the threat of Walker, the renegade who escaped at the end of the first book. He has settled in Greece and started building an army, slowly consolidating his power. The Nantucketers intend to contain him. One mission is to send a diplomatic envoy to Babylon and make an alliance with the king there. The mission goes well, so well in fact that one of the woman who leads the military command falls in love with the Babylonian princes. The Nantucketers train the Babylonians in firearms and help them defeat the Assyrians, with the goal to provide a unified front against Walker.

Meanwhile, Commodore Alston and her lover/lieutenant Swindapa nearly lose their ship in a storm on the voyage back home. They limp into a small bay to do repairs and have to fight off two boatloads of Tartessians. They manage to capture the ships and crew and get a bounty for the crew, but keep the ships.

Much of the first two thirds of the story is made up of intermittent battles and details of the plans they make and work they do to build up a strategic force to defeat Walker. Some of it gets a bit slow, though informative. It picks up when the Nantucket dirigible on watch spots enemy ships sailing for the island. The whole island is mobilized, and a great battle ensues. They manage to fight of the invading Tartessians and declare war on Tartessos.

Meanwhile, Ian and Doreen Arnstein do the diplomatic work in the far edge of the world. They consolidate their alliance with the Babylonians, even as a plague of smallpox takes over the city. They then head to the north, where Walker's forces are marching on Ilios. At the novel's end, the groundwork is laid for a huge war for Troy.

The dramatic parts of the story are interleaved with the nation-building details. It was good to see a variety of challenges other than military. The Nantucketers have to deal with plagues, superstition, poor water supplies, complex logistics, and difficult to train troops. The plotline with the Babylonians is the central driving force of the story. There is a good sense of the world becoming smaller thanks to the naval fleet of the island. They trade with peoples across the world. Likewise they have to make alliances to survive.

The characters aren't quite as well developed as they could be. The Babylonian prince and his lover Kathryn Hollard are on exception. The prince is eager to take advantage of new technology, yet he also understands his people's fears. The love story between them is a little predictable, but it was enjoyable to watch develop.

As usual there is a good bit of detail on the technology the Islanders develop and the challenges they go through. There are also a lot of different types of people and languages. Before the attack on the island there is little suspense, but otherwise it is a very good book. B+


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