“1636: The Devil’s Opera,” by Eric Flint and David Carrico, Baen Books, 528 pages, $25.
Since Eric Flint’s alternate history “1632” appeared in 2001, what was intended as a stand-alone novel has inspired scads of sequel novels and short-story collections. Flint also invited a host of collaborators to participate.
The series’ latest entry is “1636: The Devil’s Opera,” by Eric Flint and David Carrico. This novel adds a new aspect to the series. It is an old-style police-procedural mystery, set in 17th century Germany.
The 17th century Germany that would exist if a 20th century West Virginia mining town had been sent back to it.
The series’ premise is that in 2000, Grantville, W. Va., population 5,000, was switched in time and space with an identically-sized chunk of central Germany in 1631. The result is the “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” times 5,000, with the 30 Years War for flavoring.
“The Devil’s Opera” is set five years after the events in the first novel. It is set in Magdeburg, which is that century’s equivalent to Gotham. Magdeburg is an industrial boom town. A blue-collar city, it also is the capital of the new United States of Europe.
“The Devil’s Opera” uses characters originally created by David Carrico for “The Grantville Gazette,” a magazine with stories set in Flint’s 1632 universe.
Gottlieb Hoff and Byron Chieske are detectives and partners in the Magdeburg police force. Hoff is a down-timer, from the current era. Chieske is an up-timer, one of the 5,000 residents of Grantville sent into the past. Carrico has written detective stories about the pair. They deal with crime in the city.
Carrico also wrote stories about up-timer musician Marla Linder and her circle of downtime musicians. Marla has world-class musical talents, and is upending downtime music. She was brought to Magdeburg in an effort to upgrade its cultural scene.
Hoff and Chieske are trying to solve a series of murders, the result they suspect of someone creating a 20th century organized crime gang in Magdeburg. They want to break it up before it forms.
Marla and friends want to use music in a revolutionary way — literally. They produce an opera about King Arthur, and create a musical popular call to arms, both to oppose a reactionary coup d’état in the United States of Europe.
Despite the seeming independence of the two threads they spin together, along with other plot threads to weave an addictively entertaining story. “1636: The Devil’s Opera” is strong addition to a fun series.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.