What a great idea for a story! Nantucket Island is transported back in time to 1250 BC. The 5,000 residents of the island wake up to discover that the infrastructure that connected them to the world is gone. No more food or fuel shipments. No more electrical grid.
The focus of the book moves from survival (too many mouths to feed, too little farmland) to exploration and trade, to rapid industrial development, to reigning in a renegade with ambitions of empire building.
Stirling answers the question of what one does to build a modern society if one has a fair amount of knowledge but a scarcity of equipment and infrastructure. He has obviously given it a lot of thought and his solutions are convincing. If I have any reservation here, it is that Stirling goes into a lot of detail about how to smelt iron and build a ship and a variety of other technical considerations. He gives more than I want and I found myself skimming some of these passages.
The characterizations are generally very good. The good guys are well fleshed out. They have their foibles and blindspots but they learn from believable (within the context of the novel) experiences. Captain Alston strains suspension of disbelief a bit. I have no trouble accepting an accomplished black lesbian Coast Guard captain. However, her physical prowess and skill with the sword evoke comparisons to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The bad guys tend toward the two-dimensional. Walker is an Iago with no redeeming characteristics and Hong is just plain twisted. I would prefer to see a bit more character development here. Perhaps in the two sequels.
Overall, a thoughtful and entertaining read.
This report prepared by Greg Careaga
A fascinating time-travel story. The entire island of Nantucket is mysteriously catapulted back to the year 1250 BCE. It is a harsh, violent era, where human life is shorter, brutisher (sic), and nastier than ever. If the Nantucketers want to go on living a civilized life, their only choice is to raise the local tech level as much as possible. The result is an intriguing hard-SF tale of exploration, engineering, and ingenuity.
This report prepared by Jeph Gord