Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Island in the Sea of Time by S. M. Stirling (review)
Title: Island in the Sea of Time
Author: S. M. Stirling
Dewey Decimal: CD F Sti
Stirling delivers for the first time. Again.
That line sums up Stirling's work in the entire Nantucket/Changed World/Alien Space Bats epic so far. This time we visit Stirling's work early on in the series. The first book to be precise, of the Island in the Sea of Time trilogy. We have an Event (aka the Change) that takes place in March of 1998. The island of Nantucket is "zapped" (that's a technical term) back in time. Cars, guns, and everything works as normal. Even planes fly. But essentially everything off-island is now sitting at 1250 BC. Which means the mainland is populated by the natives. And Europe isn't much better.
Enter the hero of the story. A woman by the name of Marian Alston. Who's black. And a lesbian. And the Captain of the Coast Guard ship Eagle. I think this is the first and only book I've read with a main character with so many "minority labels" applied to them. It's like turning that cookie-cutter fantasy novel on it's head.
Which is what happens to the people of Nantucket. Their tale of survival, betrayal, and progress is mapped out in Island in the Sea of Time. Alston leads the good guys (and gals) while a former Coastie by the name of Walker leads the bad guys.
If you haven't read the series, this is where you need to stop. I'm going to dive deep into the plotlines and do some analysis and theorizing, both of which may give away some future endings.
Similarities abound. Alston and Walker are very much like Juni and Arminger. Hell, some of the names are even close. Arminger and Arnstein. Anyway, there's some plot points that look similar too. Havel and Arminger's head to head battle is much like Alston and Walker's head to head battle. The good guy gone bad syndrome is repeated. We hear of levies, Bitter Root Territory, and countless other phrases that take us back (or forward) to the other series.
But I'm okay with that. While there are all these things rolling around that look so much alike, it's a bit like an apple and an orange. You can eat them, but they taste different. The original Nantucket series has all the physics of today. Everything works. The Oregon series has none of the physics today. Nothing works. So it give you a different perspective on how things turn out when the world ends (or Alien Space bats attack).
I think the similarities are much more obvious since I've delved into the new series recently and am now going back to the originals. While some may see this as a bit of copy/paste by Stirling, I think there's something deeper that we need to look at. Ourselves as humans. I think that's what we're really seeing in the both sets, humans adapting to the harsh conditions of their environment. Think Darwin. We're all made up of essentially the same stuff. But it is those that adapt that survive. So those that survive in both worlds are going to share a lot of the same traits.
What I see this leading up to something big. Something those that survive the Change will develop as some sort of extra trait. What that is, I have no idea. A sixth sense, ESP, telekinesis, who knows. Maybe they'll just start growing extra thick skin on their forearms from the bows.
Anyway, stay tuned for more from Stirling. He's still writing and I'm still going through the original series.