Book: Against the Tide of Years by S. M. Stirling

Splendid second book in a trilogy about Nantucketers sent to the bronze age

April 23, 2012

S. M. Stirling

Against the Tide of Years: A Novel of the Change

Roc, 1999

ISBN-10: 0-451-45743-9

ISBN-13: 978-0-451-45743-1

464 pages


S. M. Stirling’s novel Against the Tide of Years is the second book in a trilogy that begins with Island in the Sea of Time. In that book, the island of Nantucket (off the coast of Massachusetts) is mysteriously sent back in time about 3000 years to the end of the bronze age. (Minor spoilers for the previous book follow.)

In the previous book the (mostly) phlegmatic New Englanders who were on or very near Nantucket when the island was sent back through time (just suspend disbelief on that) needed to trade to survive, at least at first. Then they needed to defend their new allies, especially against a rebel from the island, William Walker. The did a pretty good job of that and in a few years evicted Walker from Britain (then called Albion) and traded for enough raw materials re-created enough technology to produce a civilization that was beginning to flourish.

Little needs to be said about this book. No one would begin reading the series here and it is a fitting continuation of the excellent adventure started in the first book.

As this book begins, Walker has escaped to the Mediterranean and has ingratiated himself with some Greeks (who of course aren’t quite exactly Greeks yet). Indeed, the book begins memorably: “Agamemnon, son of Atreus, King of Men, High Wannax of Mycenae, and overlord of the Achaeans by land and sea, decided that he loved cannon.” (p. 1) The Nantucketers decide that a direct attack isn’t advisable. So they set out to make some trouble in Walker’s east by seeking an alliance with the Hittites of Anatolia. Getting there means meeting the Babylonians of Mesopotamia too.

The best thing about the first book was the memorable characters. That remains true of this one: Commodore Marian Alston and Lieutenant Commander Swindapa, Chief Executive Jared Cofflin, Councilors Ian and Doreen Arnstein, and plenty of others stand out. In addition, we get some notable additions, among them Raupasha, a Mitanni princess who has an excellent claim to a good bit of Mesopotamia and who turns out to be an excellent war leader. The story is splendid as well. There is no sense that this middle book drags or is merely setting things up for the last book. I’m looking forward to the final book, On the Oceans of Eternity, but I also expect that I’ll be a bit sad when there’s no more of this excellent series for me to read.