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

This is super, super nerdy, but I mean it in the most complimentary of ways: S.M. Stirling's novel Island in the Sea of Time is like a mash-up of Sid Meier's Civilization and Harriet M. Welsh's “Town” game.

Island in the Sea of Time opens with what the characters refer to as “The Event”. In March of 1998, the island of Nantucket—people, surrounding waters, and all—is inexplicably yanked back in time to the year 1250 B.C. Faced with a terrifying mixture of opportunity and potential disaster, the modern-day inhabitants of Nantucket are forced to cobble together the bones of a new civilization.

The best parts of Island in the Sea of Time focus on the practical elements of creating a new society. Even as the islanders scramble to handle the big questions (food, social stability, interactions with the outside world), Stirling sprinkles his story with a steady stream of fascinating details: how do the island's Christian inhabitants handle living in a world before Christ? What happens to insulin-dependent diabetics? How does the community handle law and order?

The only serious objection I had to Island in the Sea of Time is the novel's frequent references to rape and sexual abuse. While these attacks were undoubtedly historically accurate, they felt like they were added for prurient interest—as did one of the novel's more over-the-top villains, a sexually sadistic doctor. Thankfully, these scenes constitute a very small part of a very long novel, and the rest of Stirling's story is an ambitious, thought-provoking, and utterly engrossing blend of adventure, characterization, and world-building.
Posted by: Julianka


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