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REVIEW: Island in the Sea of Time

AUTHOR: S.M. Stirling

REVIEW SUMMARY: Alternative history fiction that does a great job despite some rather glaring ‘lucky breaks’ along the way.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The island of Nantucket and the US Coast Guard training ship ‘Eagle’ are thrown back in time to 1250 BC. After taking some time to figure out where they are and what is going on, the people have to get down to the business of survival – made more difficult when one of their own decides to seek out a power base amongst the natives.


PROS: The mental exploration of alternative history is fun, and I know I’ve wondered many times what I could really do if I was thrown back into King Arthur’s court. This book explores that – giving you a chance to realize how much our modern life has deviated from that of our ancestors. The fact that few of us know how to gather our own food, spin yarn into thread or hand-make tools is driven home as we see the plight of the islanders. That they completely wipe out the first native americans they find with the common cold was remarkably refreshing too – no Star Trek-like first contacts here!

CONS: There are too many ‘lucky breaks’ in this one for me – the fact that there is a full machine shop on the island, that the sailing ship Eagle just happens to also be brought back, and a couple of others. That doesn’t detract from the story but does serve to weaken my ability to suspend my disbelief.

BOTTOM LINE: Interesting ‘what if’ scenario that includes strong characters and several very interesting battle sequences.

2 Comments on REVIEW: Island in the Sea of Time

  1. You sure it wasnt about Dolly Parton’s breasts?

  2. S.M. Stirling // September 4, 2006 at 4:56 am //

    Who is it who said that fiction has to be plausible and reality doesn’t?

    In fact, every machine and skill mentioned in the book actually exists on the island… except for the ones on the “Eagle”, which is based nearby and often sails close to it.

    There is a machine shop (several, in fact); the ship exists and comes there often; there are usually two or more big sailing schooners there; the people with various abilities are mostly Tuckerized versions of people I interviewed on-island.

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