Archive for January 21st, 2011

The Eastern Front – A Primer of Things To Come

1635: The Eastern Front

One of the nice things about the 1632 series is that there’s always something new and exciting in the political arena. With typical deftness, Eric Flint can usually create a great story featuring the dynamics of the misplaced West Virginians in the midst of the Thirty Year’s War. Unfortunately for fans of the series, The Eastern Front seems to be nothing more than a primer for the next book in the series – 1636: The Saxon Uprising.

The story kicks off soon after the events of 1635: The Dreeson Incident. Michael and Rebecca Stearns have just moved into their new house in Magdeburg, the capitol city of the United States of Europe. Michael, who recently lost the election for Prime Minister, is activated to the rank of general and is being prepared to ship off to war against the rebel provinces of Saxony and Brandenburg. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the series, you will be very confused by the convoluted events leading up to this and probably by this review. I’m not about to rehash the entire series (because I don’t have a week’s worth of time). Suffice to say, democracy is in the process of taking place in 1635 central Europe and it’s a very messy process, since most of the ruling kings and princes really don’t like this idea.

Of course, nothing really gets going in this book until midway through, when the armies of Gustav Adolphus, ruler of Sweden and the USE, move forward to go to war with the rebel provinces. He quickly crushes the two rebel provinces but the Poles, who have a vested interest in a buffer region between the growing greed of the King of Sweden and their own borders, sends a token force to assist with the defense of Saxony. Adolphus uses this as a pretext for war against Poland, and the great Grand Hetman Stanislaw Koniecpolski.

(side note – Koniecpolski is, in my opinion, one of the ten greatest generals of all time. A lot of people would argue that Adolphus helped create the modern concept of warfare, but it is Koniecpolski who was the first (and most successful) at holding the “Lion of the North” in check before his real-life death at the Battle of Lutzen in 1632. Koniecpolski knew his limitations and the capabilities of his armies, never asking them to do things he knew or suspected that they would fail at. He is the first man to truly think that your army is only as great as your weakest division. If Hitler had been up against him, it would have been a much longer war in Poland. Oh, the Poles still would have lost, but the delaying action could have potentially given France and England enough time to avoid a Dunkirk. Sorry, got sidetracked there…)

This is an Eric Flint novel, so you know the editing is going to be sound. The story takes awhile to get going, focusing primarily on the growing political dissent between the Crown Loyalists Party (consisting of a lot of wealthy princes and upper class) and the Fourth of July Party (which has Stearns and everybody who is labeled a “non-racist. Politics in the 1632 universe are rather simple). Meanwhile, while the political front at home is getting squirrelly, Gretchen Richter is helping to stir up a rebellion in her own right.

Richter is a very weird figure in the 1632 universe. In the first novel, she was a camp follower who was the “wife” of the company commander who was slaughtered by the suddenly arrived Americans in 1632. As the series moves onward, she becomes a centralized figure of a very radical democratic movement which is spreading like wildfire across Europe. She is, naturally, feared by all the princes and kings of Europe, though the King of Denmark is particularly amused and impressed by her earlier in the series. In The Eastern Front, she needs her own bodyguards from the Committee of Correspondence, the radical democratic movement she helped found years before after being saved by the Americans, particularly her husband, Jeff Higgins. So take that as you will.

As I said, the book ends with a cliffhanger, leaving you to wait for the next book in the series to resolve pretty much anything. I won’t give much away with this little tidbit, but Crown Princess Kristina of Sweden and her betrothed, the prince of Denmark, are going to play a much bigger role in the upcoming books if things stay the way they appear to be at the end of the book.

Good buy if you love the series. If you’re new, I’d recommend starting with 1632 and 1633, then branching out so you aren’t lost by the time you read The Eastern Front.

–Reviewed by Jason