“1636: The China Venture” by Eric Flint and Iver P. Cooper, Baen Books, 2019, 464 pages, $25
Eric Flint’s standalone time-transposition novel “1632” proved so popular it metastasized into a series of some 30 novels and 12 collections of short stories.
The premise is a small town in West Virginia gets transposed in time and space with a similar volume from 17th century Thuringia in Germany. At the height of the Thirty Years War.
“1636: The China Venture” by Eric Flint and Iver P. Cooper is the series’ latest edition. In it, Granville (the town sent to the past) sends a mission to Ming China.
It’s more complicated than that. In our history, 1633 (when the book begins) is near the start of a convulsion that rocked and ultimately brought down the Ming Empire. With the assistance of history books from our present, Grantville knows this. China has goods Grantville desires, so they’re going to play the hand they’re dealt using their advantage: knowing everyone’s cards on the first round.
The contingent Grantville sends includes Mike Song, born in Taiwan, but living in Grantville when it was displaced, working as a mining engineer. He speaks and reads modern Chinese, allowing communications. Three other up-timers also go, one of whom majored in Chinese.
A joint mission with the Swedes and Dutch it includes down-timers (people originally from the 17th century), including historical figures. This includes Peter Minuit, who because of changes in history, will never purchase Manhattan Island.
The book has everything fans expect from a book in this series. The expedition gets to China experiencing the usual obstacles: pirates, European colonial officials with their own agendas and simply the distances covered.
Once in China, the party meets with a wide variety of Chinese society: A scholar who failed the Chinese civil service exam, a Chinese trading family, a pirate-turned-Chinese-admiral and a courtesan and poet.
Into this mix, the first round of the Li Zicheng revolt serves as a blender, forcing the various parties to work together for survival. There’s a climactic battle, a romance and a heaping of technology transfer and travelogue. “1636: The China Venture” offers fans of Eric Flint’s series’ an entertaining read.