“1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies,” by Eric Flint and Charles E Gannon, Baen Books, 2014, 624 pages, $25


In 2000, Eric Flint wrote “1632,” a science-fiction novel about Grantville, a West Va. town switched in time and place with to Thirty Years War Germany.

It spawned numerous sequels. Eddie Cantrell played a significant role in the first novels.

In “1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies,” by Flint and Charles E Gannon, Cantrell is back.

He lost a leg in combat, and married a king’s daughter along the way. As this novel opens, Cantrell, a commander in the United States of Europe Navy, finds himself commanding a fleet sent to the Caribbean.

It is not as crazy as it seems today. The fleet includes steamships, radios and weapons developed from 20th century technology.

Cantrell, in his early 20s, understands their use better than older down-timers. Plus, 17th century Europe was accustomed to boy generals, favored by kings. Cantrell’s father-in-law, King Christian IV of Denmark, made Cantrell a duke.

The expedition, a cooperative effort of the USE, the Triple Crown of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, has several objectives.

One is to relieve Tromp’s Dutch fleet in the New World. Another is seeking New World oil. Uptime technology demands petroleum.

Finally, Grantville wants to derail the colonial ambitions of Spain and France.

In 1636, no peace west of the mid-Atlantic was the rule. The Caribbean is a Spanish lake. Spain plans to keep it that way. To stay, Cantrell’s squadron must fight.

This novel seeks to and succeeds in recapturing the energy of the early books in the series. Part of the series’ attraction was Grantville fighting long odds and winning using new ideas and technology.

It is hard to remain the underdog if you win enough. By 1635, they had largely succeeded. Success became predictable. Predictable is dull.

In the New World, our heroes are again outnumbered. Spain is mighty, their leaders are clever and USE reinforcements can be delayed by European events.

So, it is game on, like it has not been since “1634: The Baltic War.” “1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies” is great fun stand-alone or to addicts of the series.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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