Alternate History, Book Review, Guest Post

Book Review by Seawriter: Cruising the Ancient Mediterranean in a Modern Cruise Ship

Eric Flint’s “Assiti Shards” stories are an alternate history series where people from the present are cast into the past by shards of time-shifting artwork striking the Earth.

The series started with 1632, in which a West Virginia small town transposed in space with Thirty-Years-War Germany. In 2017, a new branch of the series, Ring of Fire, began: In The Alexander Inheritance, cruise ship Queen of the Sea gets sent back to the ancient Mediterranean, the year after Alexander the Great’s death.

The Macedonian Hazard, by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett continues Queen of the Sea’s ancient voyage. It follows the cruise ship’s adventures navigating the narrow waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the narrow minds of Seleucid leaders attempting to control pieces of Alexander the Great’s disintegrating empire.

The Queen of the Sea won uneasy neutrality in The Alexander Inheritance, becoming a floating embassy for the various civilizations ringing the Mediterranean. It hosts passengers from most, serving as a platform where they parley. It also crossed the Atlantic to establish a settlement on Trinidad, from which it extracts fuel to keep the ship going.

As in the Ring of Fire books, the main challenge faced by the “uptimers,” those thrown back in time with Queen of the Sea and its fuel barge, is establishing the twenty-first century technology they enjoyed, in the downtime world in which they have been thrown. It is a challenge made more difficult because half of the uptimers were cruise ship passengers. Many are retired with health problems.

They are not stupid, however. Most are educated, with valuable skills, and good enough at what they do to afford a cruise. The downtimers are eager to learn from the uptimers. The goods produced by the uptimers seem like magic – even things as simple a glass buttons and iron nails. But technology transfer is complicated because mercy and charity are unknown concepts in ancient time. Some downtimers want  to enslave the uptimers and force the uptimers to serve them.

The uptimers avoid this through heavily-armed neutrality and technology embargos on societies abusing the uptimers. It works–mostly. It works even better using Trinidad as a home port and manufacturing center. There they have enlisted the locals as enthusiastic allies.

The Macedonian Hazard splits between the New World and and the Old, showing how the uptimers adapt, the downtimers absorb, and both groups benefit–mostly—from each other. It is an entertaining addition to the series.

“The Macedonian Hazard,” by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett, Baen, 2021, 368 pages, $25.00 (Hardcover), $9.99 (Ebook)

*Mark Lardas is an engineer, freelance writer, historian and model-maker living in Texas.  Mark posts on Ricochet as “Seawriter,” and is well-known for his regular and much appreciated reviews of books on all subjects.  Of his reviews, he says “I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review.”  His website is marklardas.com.

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