Commander Cantrell in the West Indies

Commander Cantrell in the West Indies is the latest in the sprawling and immense 1632 series created by Eric Flint. The setting – a West Virginia town transported back to southern Germany during the middle of the 30 years war – has become the stage on which multiple story lines have emerged. The main ones are in full length books like this one; lesser story lines are published in collections of what are essentially fan fiction, but fan fiction that is edited and paid for, and hence of a generally higher quality. But all of these stories together make up a huge universe which touches on all kinds of historical, political, and even religious questions. If you’re a fan of the series (which I am) you’ll certainly want to read this title.

While there are few familiar characters, the new setting (the New World) allows for a whole new set of characters and interests. There are plenty of interesting historical allusions, and lots of naval battles. The detail in naval matters is impressive. I especially enjoy the adaptive strategies that new technologies (even ones that might be viewed as archaic in modern times) force the participants to think about. These features can help us appreciate the changes (and advantages) that technology has brought to us.

As has sometimes been the case in the series, there are so many story threads going on at once that one or two threads seems to inexplicably disappear for a while – and it can be hard to keep the various characters straight. And it can be difficult to connect this story to contemporaneous stories elsewhere in the universe if you don’t pay close attention, though the authors provide periodic clues that help a bit.

Having said all that, for me it was an enjoyable read and I’d recommend it for people who find a bit of creative alternate history interesting.

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