Rational People With Shotguns vs. Historic Europe
There is a series of books with an amazing alternate-historical premise: What if a village of Hillbillies were brought into middle ages Europe? And nobody but me and some history fans seems to know of them.
The series of Books by Eric Flint and several other authors starts with „1632“, a book that I would best describe as: Rational Man With Shotgun. RMWS is an analysis trope where people ask „would a RMWS not be much better suited to deal with this conflict? Why are these protagonists so incapable? They have their [insert here] powers, why don’t they just kill him. For god’s sakes!“
In 1632, a modern day mining village, Grantville, is randomly and irreversably thrown into the past – right into Thuringia, Germany. In the middle of the thirty years‘ war. As they leave the town and explore what is around them, they quickly identify the situation and come to terms with it. And then they simply join the war, by taking the surrounding farmers under the protection of the law, proclaiming the United States of Europe and with superior firepower and, especially, range.
There are many amazing moments in the first book. At one point, a medieval army is trying to invade Leipzig. The new United States place two snipers on the towers of the local castle and simply shoot down any general and other ranking official, identifiable by their feathered helmets, while the army is still preparing their formation. Then they drive out with jeeps and let germans with megaphones ask them to give up and join Grantville’s side.
At another point, a Grantville troop finds an old jewish man in need of medical aid and his daughter. They call over Grantville’s doctor, a black man. And while readers like me might still be worried if they would accept him, the daughter already thinks: A moor! We’re saved, the muslims know actual medicine!
Eric Flint and his many colleagues set out in 2000 to write extremely historically accurate fiction, and it becomes clear after a while that this is not just a fun SciFi-alternate-history romp. To this day, the series comprises fifeteen books. Things get increasingly involved when the contents of the Grantville school library become public knowledge in Europe. Countries give up on plans they had and try to replicate technologies from the future. Modern music becomes popular with the population, classical music (that had, at this point, not been written yet) becomes a way for Grantville to sway the nobles. Technologies that can be reconstructed in the 17th century come into general use.
This same scope and love for detail is probably also why you have never heard of it. Not only does Flint easily handle where every significant character is at each point, planning out in very reasonable and convincing ways how this war would continue. The series also decided to not be completely linear. As Grantville has ambassadors and experts all over the place at any time, after the two introductory novels… the story just splits. There are three books set in 1634 (about Galileo, Bavaria and a naval War in the Baltic using iron-armored ships), four in 1635 (two about the Pope, antisemitic plots and an invasion of Poland) and five about 1636.
There is a most reasonable order to follow these books: 1632, ’33, ’34: The Baltic War, ’35: The Eastern Front – after which you can basically read whatever. But I completely understand how daunting this task sounds even to someone who might just think „alternate history about rational man with shotgun? AWESOME!“. This is my only criticism of the series in general: How scarily it is framed for the reader. The author himself has said that the real thirty years‘ war was chaotic, so his books about it can not be orderly. This is the kind of series for someone who likes to compare historical maps with alternate historical maps. and take notes on who is where.
Not everyone will think „Ooh, Gustavus Adolphus is in this one? There is a plan to overthrow France and give the power to the Huguenots?“ – it takes a certain kind of history buff to be excited by those name drops. If you happen to be one, if reading a book about how the Duchess Anna Maria gets to marry the Prince Cardinal Infante of Spain is as exciting to you as a fanfiction about Wolverine and Emma Frost is to other kinds of nerds, then let nothing hold you back. These are very good books. But I’ll be surprised if I ever meet a second person who has read any of them.