I read this book about 23-Aug-2001. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2000. This note was last modified Saturday, 19-Aug-2006 10:41:40 PDT.
This note does not contain major spoilers for the book.
I heard enough about this from various people on Usenet to finally decide I should read it; even though the author participated in some discussions a while back in ways that didn't seem, to me, to be to his credit. So far I'm enjoying it a lot. Definitely a book working to promulgate the concept of the superiority of American values and culture. Since they plop the Americans down in Germany in 1632 (during the 30 Years War), it's hard to disagree; American values and culture are greatly superior in many regards to what they had then.
Rather than being alternate history, it's made a branching history. Playful aliens (who will be exterminated in 85 million years by some of our descendents) swap a 3-mile sphere between 1632 and 2000, forking the universe in the process. The few thousand people sent back to 1632 are setting out, so far as I can tell, to conquer Europe and make it American.
I like dealing with issues of technological bootstrapping, but I don't like time travel or alternate history, so this is a nice structure for me. I get the part I like without the problems usually associated with it.
Part Three is a very nice historical account of the battle of Breitenfeld. Well, it presents itself as historical; I'm not a historian to verify it. None of the fictional characters are present, and the events they've caused haven't spread far enough to affect this battle yet. Anyway, the point I was after is that it's one of the best fictionalized accounts of a battle I've seen. Some characters presumably not known to history are introduced, and dialog is quoted that I'm sure isn't historically documented, but it reads like a good fictional account of a battle, even though it's solidly about the real battle. This sounds silly; I haven't found how to describe this clearly yet.
Actually, I almost believe they've created the nucleus of a stable society by the end of the book. I'm afraid I'm accepting people being convinced of the "obvious rightness" of human rights too easily, though.
One thing that bugged me a bit, as an SF reader since forever, is that not one of the people in the town give a millisecond's thought to whether their actions might "change the future", might create a paradox causing the universe to implode, or any of the usual time travel tropes. We know that the universe had forked, so it wasn't an issue, but they didn't know that.
Yeah, it's entirely likely that nobody but a serious SF reader would even think of that. It's not so likely IMHO that a town of 3000 wouldn't have one somewhere, and I think some fun could have been had with it, and I think a wave of recognition in that direction (that those are standard concerns, which don't make much sense maybe, and which aren't going to be taken seriously in this book) would have been nice.
Anyway, it was a lot of fun to read, and while I kinda think he made some things too easy, I hope he's right and I'm wrong about that. I think he did identify and confront a number of the basic problems in making such a scenario work, quite honestly if perhaps a bit optimistically in all cases.