Ring of Fire III, by Eric Flint and others
It’s another story collection. As I said in my tweet:
It wasn’t bad, but I liked the first two more. The novella was good, but it left so much unresolved. I picked this up right after finishing “Ring of Fire II”, but I think it’s time for a break
The Gambler’s Fortune, by Juliet E. McKenna
This one didn’t grab me. The protagonist had her mission, but I wasn’t invested in it. The antagonists were off doing their own thing. It wasn’t until both sides intersected about two-thirds through the book that I got into it.
Also, I’ve complained about this before, but the vocab can be obtuse. Why would someone say “off-hand” instead of “left”?
I want to at least try the next book in the series, but this one was a slog. It took months to finish. I like the setting, and I can appreciate what this book was trying to do, but it didn’t work for me.
Cyclops, by Clive Cussler
This one was a lark. I picked it up as a gag gift for a white elephant gift exchange last Christmas. The guy who “won” my presents wasn’t interested in it, so I took it back home.
I read a lot of Cussler in my teens, specifically his Dirk Pitt books. I must’ve read about a dozen of them, including this one. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I started reading this. A lot of media from the 80s hasn’t aged well, and there might be all sorts of terrible things that went over my head as a kid.
It was actually pretty good! The action was fun. The characters worked. Cussler’s joy in history, particularly naval history, was infectious. And it’s paced like a summer blockbuster.
1636: The Barbie Consortium, by Paula Goodlett and Gorg Huff
I picked this up when Barbie came out. Obviously.
Gorg Huff has a story in Ring of Fire II that ties directly into this book. I vaguely recall it after reading a summary on Wikipedia. Together with Paula Goodlett — they seem to be writing partners — they contributed a decent story about a new airline to Ring of Fire III.
OK. So this book is about people trying to make their way in this strange new world, as most of these books are. More specifically, it’s about two groups of youngsters: a group of teenagers who design a sewing machine and get into manufacturing; and a younger group of girls who realize their plastic Barbies are now extremely rare luxury toys, and use that wealth to become investors.
It’s also — of course — a story about change and growing up. Grantville is also changing rapidly, and the kids are much better equipped to deal with those changes than the adults.
Lastly, it’s a book about economics. In a series of fantastical alternate history books. I didn’t expect that at all.
1636: The Kremlin Games, by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett
Bernie Zeppi is drifting through life. His mom died because they couldn’t get the medicine she needed after the ring of fire. He has PTSD from the Battle of the Crapper (as seen in 1632). So now he mostly drinks and plays video games.
Then a Russian prince shows up, offering him a job to go to Russia and help translate and explain uptime texts. With nothing really keeping him in Grantville, he says yes.
At the start he’s (understandably) bitter and doesn’t care about anything. As he adjusts to his new home, he sees people suffering and wants to help. His aid and knowledge helps start an industrial revolution, which increasingly destabilizes the relationships between the czar, the great families, the bureaucracy, and the countless serfs.
It’s a good story. My biggest complaint is that, like a lot of these books, it’s mostly set-up for interesting things to happen later. Bernie’s arc was satisfying, but I wish there were more resolved. It got me to buy the sequel, though, so, uh… success?