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Island in the Sea of Time by S. M. Stirling

Island in the Sea of Time (edition 1998)

by S. M. Stirling

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1,172316,889 (3.97)57
Title:Island in the Sea of Time
Authors:S. M. Stirling
Info:Dutton / Signet (1998), Edition: Reprint, Mass Market Paperback, 608 pages
Collections:Read, Fiction, Your library
Tags:read in 2013

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Island in the Sea of Time by S. M. Stirling

Recently added bynielsnej, caseyjohn, Vokie, bookman143, TopazRage, paupersgrave, kenzen, private library, feenie1010
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    lquilter: If what you liked in Island in the Sea of Time was the civilization-building, but you were annoyed by the politics of the author, give Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy (starting with Red Mars) a try: World-building in a new (future) world, so less offensiveness in the portrayal of actual past human civilizations, and -- for all that KSR is not exactly a master of characterization -- much more nuanced good and bad guys.… (more)
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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

After a strange electrical storm, the residents of Nantucket discover that their entire island and its surrounding waters have been sent back to 1300 B.C. Now this society, which is mostly based on a tourist economy, must figure out how to establish a new identity in prehistory. This includes clearing and farming land, building ships, finding new sources of fuel, salt, and other necessities, and most difficult of all, developing a constitution and befriending native trading partners.

Fortunately, Nantucket has some citizens with valuable knowledge and skills who find themselves naturally rising to leadership positions: a brave and competent Baptist police chief, a widely-read and level-headed librarian, a black lesbian ship captain, a history professor, an astronomy student, the manager of the local grocery store, and a Catholic priest.

But of course there are also some citizens who cause problems: the church whose pastor teaches that sending Nantucket back in time was Satan’s plan to prevent the birth of Christ, and the “flake-and-nut contingent” who want to arm the natives so they’ll never be oppressed by future Americans. Then there’s the biggest threat of all — the ambitious Coast Guard Lieutenant William Walker who sees all this confusion as an opportunity to set up his very own kingdom.

I have a thing for time-travel novels — especially the Survivor-style stories in which modern people are forced to live in more uncivilized and unsophisticated times. Island in the Sea of Time has the added fun of actually having modern conveniences but not having the power or fuel to run them. Thus, the people of Nantucket must disassemble their cars for sheet metal while raiding their museums for whaling and milling antiques.

There’s more to this story than survival and industrial revolution, though. Island in the Sea of Time is full of characters who feel like real people — people you might actually know. For the most part their relationships and romances are believable and understandable as former strangers work together to create a new society. The villains, however, are over-the-top. It’s hard to believe in the doctor’s sadism, William Walker’s vast knowledge and foresight, and the granola crowds’ naiveté (their leader is shocked that the natives are “sexist,” “patriarchal,” and “abusive of animals” and that they don’t immediately trust the Americans).

At times, Island in the Sea of Time becomes a bit teachy as characters discuss token economies, division of labor, ship building, linguistics, farming techniques, iron casting, steam engines, canning, the production of gunpowder, the use and care of firearms, etc. And it gets a little preachy as they discuss the creation of a new constitution. But generally I thought S.M. Stirling did a good job with this aspect of the book.

I read the audio version of Island in the Sea of Time, narrated by Todd McLaren and produced by Tantor Audio. The best thing I can say about it is that I mostly forgot I was listening to an audiobook — McLaren’s voices and cadences were so natural that they never called attention to themselves. The only time I was brought out of the story was when McLaren used his “Boston” voice for the U. Mass astronomy intern. But that’s not McLaren’s fault...

Island in the Sea of Time comes to a satisfactory end, but most readers will be eager to continue the islanders’ advances and adventures in the next book in S.M. Stirling’s Nantucket series: Against the Tide of Years. ( )
1 vote Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
The entire island of Nantucket is somehow transported from the year 1998 all the way back to 1250 B.C. The exact reason and mechanism for this aren't really explored here; it remains a deep mystery to everyone involved. Instead, Stirling focuses on what happens next: how the islanders survive, what kinds of technology they are able to reinvent or maintain, how they reorganize their society, and what encounters they have with the people of that era. That last thing gets very messy and complicated; there are a lot of bloody conflicts in the second half of the book.

This is a really intriguing premise. I have slightly mixed feelings about how Stirling handles it, though, because what he presents strikes me as a highly unrealistic best-case scenario for this situation, in terms of just how much people are able to accomplish in a very short period of time, and I think he glosses over a lot of technological and psychological difficulties. To he credit, he doesn't ignore them, but he does gloss over them. And I never could quite stop being aware of the fact that the author was manipulating everything about the situation to take the story in exactly the directions he wanted it. (E.g., they just happen to have a talented blacksmith, but most of their guns get destroyed early on. Yay, sword fights for everybody!) Of course, all authors do this, but it always works better when you don't notice it.

None of that, however, kept me from being interested in how things were going for the Nantucketers and what they were accomplishing. Stirling really does put a lot of attention into all the details, and conjures up the feeling of suddenly entering a vanished, long-ago world pretty well. I found it all much more engaging than I initially expected to, even when nothing much was going on. Actually... Possibly especially when nothing much was going on, because just about halfway through the book, which is where most of the real action starts, I was beginning to get tired. Not that I'd stopped being interested, exactly, but... Well, this isn't exactly a fast-paced page-turner, and it was taking me so long to get through it that by that point I just kind of felt like I wanted to get to the conclusion so I could go on to something else.

Even when I did, though, I don't know that it was a terribly satisfying conclusion. The central conflict is temporarily resolved, but the feel of the ending was very much, "Thus ends Book One! Stay tuned for the sequel!" Whether I actually will pick up the next book or not, I don't really know. I'd kind of like to return to this world and see how it fares as the years pass, but, man, 600 pages of this at a shot may just be a little too much for me. ( )
4 vote bragan | Apr 2, 2014 |
This book is the first in Stirling's Nantucket series and is a speculative fiction piece that revolves around what would happen if the island of Nantucket and all of its inhabitants were tranported to the Bronze Age. The book is filled with many fun 'What if' scenarios. What if modern man ran into Mayan cannibals in South America? Who would win and who would be dinner? The book is a large scale Survivor game and you find yourself cheering for Team Nantucket. The narration is well done with just the perfect amount of Cape Cod accent. And the book adds just a bit of ancient history to give it some appeal to historical fiction buffs. Definitely a fun audiobook to try out!
( )
1 vote jmoncton | Jun 3, 2013 |
I was all set to love this as much as I loved the parallel series, the Emberverse, but I didn't.

I'm not sure why, but this book was just not as interesting. I suspect that at least some of it was sadness to think that these people were given a chance to start over with a clean slate and the first thing they did was introduce disease to the indigenous population. And then guns. *sigh*

I'm bailing out of this series here. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
Wow. I had this book on my to-read shelf for some time as I'd heard it was a good alt history book but I never got around to reading it til one of my book clubs picked it as a series read. And I'm glad I finally read it.

A fascinating, thrilling story of an incident which send the island of Nantucket, MA, USA (plus a sailing vessel of the Coast Guard) back in time to around 1250 BC. The affected having to come to terms with the loss of everyone and everything they once knew and learn to live in the Bronze Age.

Now I will admit there is a lot of handwaving here. It seems to be amazing luck that they have fishermen, farmers, blacksmiths, historians, anthropologists, a vast array of people who know how to make or find everything required to get a society running at at least Industrial Revolution standards. But you know what? I didn't care. It meant the book kept moving and didn't end after two chapters with everyone dying. Which is what would happen if 9000 random people from my city were sent back to the past.

I loved the little details of the civilisations of the time. I wanted to see more interactions and explorations but I believe that will occur in the rest of the series. This book really was about getting the Islanders to a stable point from which they could be self-sufficient plus the breakaway groups.

There were times that I wish this book was written at a higher level though like [b:Opening Atlantis|666256|Opening Atlantis (Atlantis, #1)|Harry Turtledove|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1266611676s/666256.jpg|652308] or [b:Foundation|29579|Foundation (Foundation, #1)|Isaac Asimov|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320416085s/29579.jpg|1783981], spanning generations to see what changes the Event caused. Especially, and this ties in with something that bugged me, when they were getting close to year 0. So here's something I really disliked. After everything else going ok, yeah sure existing tribes and civilisations would be completely changed but they had to survive somehow, they decide to unleash Christianity on the locals. A religion based on someone who wouldn't even be "born" for over 1000 years. I guess they at least might get a coming of Jesus. But I wouldn't have thought the scientists who were helping oversee would have just allowed that through without some challenge.

Though they were all thrown thousands of years into the past by an unknown force. Maybe that's a good time to start praying to someone.

One of the other points I really loved was the questions and implications raised by such an event. Should they have tried to live a completely isolationist existence? They had to resort to whaling for oil and food and other by-products, but was that a bad thing in a time when whale populations would be immense and sustainable hunting could be enacted from day 1? I understand needing to help the local British inhabitants protect themselves from a force lead by an American but was the wholesale slaughter and hatred of the Olmecs necessary? The way they talked about eradicating them was akin to genocide. Plus destroying the Olmec culture would lead to their being no Aztecs or Mayans or any other Central/South American civilisations.

This was a great book. History was always my favourite subject and I would love the chance to live it for myself. Though could I really give up all the modern luxuries? Who knows. I can't wait to read the next book. ( )
1 vote Shirezu | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stirling, S. M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
McLaren, ToddNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wimmer, MikeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Jan, as always, forever.
And to Harry -
for setting a good example.
First words
March, 1998 A.D.

Ian Arnstein stepped off the ferry gangway and hefted his bags.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Wikipedia- An elliptical region, including the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts and the United States Coast Guard ship Eagle, is transported by an unknown phenomenon (called "The Event") back in time to the Bronze Age circa 1250s BC (corresponding to the late Heroic Age of the Trojan War).

As the truth of what has happened sinks in panic grips the island. Sherrif Jared Cofflin is given emergency powers and begins organizing the people to help produce food for the island so they can feed themselves. Meanwhile Captain Marian Alston takes the Eagle to Britain, with Ian Arnstein and Doreen Rosenthal as interpreters, where they trade Nantucket made goods with the "Sun People", a tribe that has been steadily invading the island, for grain. As a gift the Sun People chief gives Marian a slave, Swindapa, a captured female "Earth People" warrior. Swindapa is freed and decides to stay with Marian. The Eagle leaves for Nantucket but takes with them Isketerol, a Tartessos merchant who hopes to learn from the Americans.

While the people of Nantucket work for their survival, William Walker, a lieutenant on the Eagle, decides that with modern technology he could become a king in this time. With the help of Isketerol and others, Walker convinces some naive environmentalists to steal a ship and kidnap Cofflin's wife so they can give guns to Native Americans. Meanwhile Walker and Isketerol steal another ship and return to Britain to recruit soldiers for their eventual takeover of Greece. Marian decides to rescue Cofflin's wife first and saves her after defeating an Olmec army.

Time passes as Walker solidifies his control over the Sun People and Nantucket creates a new government and prepares to take down Walker. Marian returns to Britain with a small army and uses Swindapa, who has become her lover, to convince the Moon People to fight with them to defeat Walker. Both sides meet at the Battle of the Downs and though Nantucket and its allies are victorious, Walker manages to escape with his followers to Greece.

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Through a freak of nature, the island of Nantucket is transported 3,000 years back in time. The novel describes the way its inhabitants adjust to primitive living and the reaction of the Indians on the mainland. By the author of The Ship Avenged.

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