Ring of Fire series
by Renee Schmutz-Sowards, BCPL circulation specialist
Someday I’ll write a review about a standalone book – really, I will. But not today! Today I want to talk about a series that I love, but that at the same time can be slightly … “whelming” (which is not quite overwhelming).
I am talking about the notable and prolific sci-fi writer Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire series. (Here’s where the confusion starts, because it is alternately known as the 1632 series. I prefer Ring of Fire because it sounds cooler and I don’t really like numbers. So there.)
Mr. Flint has created a story that has massive appeal to a range of genre fans. Like Sci-Fi? Covered. Alternate History? Bingo. Fantasy? Gotcha. Rollicking good, old-fashioned adventure stories? Here it is. Really dry accounts based on factual information about obscure 17th century European politics? Oh boy, you’re gonna love this one!
Another “exciting” aspect of this series (I am using quotes around exciting, by the way, to suggest a certain sense of sarcasm) is that even though the series currently includes 17 novels and 5 anthologies, even the author can’t really say what order to read them in.
In fact, the only one fixed in any particular order is the very first book, “1632”. Read this one first.
If you really must have a specific order to read them in, you can visit the author’s website and view Mr. Flints suggested order, although overall he’s rather ambivalent about it.
So after all this, why do I want you to read it?
So someone else out there can share my pain. And because it is so epically darn-well written and fun and AWESOME!
Here’s as short a synopsis as I can give to try and convey the total coolness of these books:
Part of a present-day small town is mysteriously transported back in time to the year 1632 in East Germany during the Thirty Years’ War. Everything and everyone inside the “ring of fire,” as it is dubbed, is intact. Buildings, cars, and people – every part of a modern town is now more the 300 years in the past.
And here’s the kicker. The hook. The reason that you, gentle reader in or near the great state of wild, wonderful West Virginia will seek out this book (perhaps at Boyd County Public Library, or another local library?) and read it: It’s a West Virginia town that ends up back in time, and on the wrong side of the Atlantic.
When you read it you will swear that Mr. Flint is writing about people you know, and have known your whole life if you’re from here. These aren’t stereotypes. These are real folk, reacting to a fantastically overwhelming situation in every possible manner that you could expect real folks to do, but ultimately displaying the same solid, can-do, git-r-done resilience that makes you proud to be from this region.
And that is why I strongly encourage you to read at least the first book of the series. After that, if you want to wade into the rest of the series, go for it and feel confident in knowing you can read whatever one happens to be on the shelf next, because the only order this series has is disorder.
Here are two websites that can be helpful if you chose to read more in the Ring of Fire series:
www.ericflint.net – the author’s website which has his suggested reading order and a list of all the titles in the series.
www.historylearningsite.co.uk/thirty_years_war.htm – A really good history of the Thirty Years’ War.