1636: Mission to the Mughals

1636: Mission to the Mughals

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Hardcover, Pages: 432

Genres: Science Fiction, Alternate History, Fiction, Time Travel

Reads: 18

Downloads: 1149

Rating: Rated: 565 timesRate It

1636: Mission to the Mughals
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Summary

The latest entry in the multiple New York Times best-selling Ring of Fire series created by Eric Flint. After carving a free state for itself in war-torn 17th century Europe, citizens of the modern town of Grantville, West Virginia go on a quest for the makings of medicines that have yet to be invented in 17th century Europe.

The United States of Europe, the new nation formed by an alliance between the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus and the West Virginians hurled back in time by a cosmic accident—the Ring of Fire—is beset by enemies on all sides. The U.S.E. needs a reliable source of opiates for those wounded in action, as well as other goods not available in Europe. The Prime Minister of the U.S.E., Mike Stearns, sends a mission to the Mughal Empire of India with the aim of securing a trade deal with the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan.

The mission consists of a mixed group of up-timers and down-timers, including paramedics, a squad of soldiers with railroad-building experience, a spy and a pair of swindlers. On reaching India the mission finds a grieving emperor obsessed with building the Taj Mahal, harem-bound princesses, warrior princes, and an Afghan adventurer embroiled in the many plots of the Mughal court.

The emperor’s sons are plotting against each other and war is brewing with the newly risen Sikh faith. But in the midst of these intrigues, the U.S.E. mission finds a ally: the brilliant and beautiful Jahanara Begum, the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan. She is the mistress of her fathers harem and a power in her own right, who wishes to learn more of these women who are free in a way she can scarcely comprehend.

When the Emperor learns of what befalls his empire and children in the time that was, he makes every effort to change their fate. But emperors, princesses, and princes are no more immune to the inexorable waves of change created by the Ring of Fire than are the Americans themselves.

About Eric Flints groundbreaking Ring of Fire series:
“This alternate history series is... a landmark…”—Booklist

About Eric Flints best-selling Jao Empire series coauthored with K.D. Wentworth and David Carrico:
“The action is fast and furious... a trimphant story... ”—The Midwest Book Review

“Building to an exhilarating conclusion, this book cries out for a sequel.”—Publishers Weekly

About Eric Flints Boundary series, coauthored with Ryk E. Spoor:
“. . . fast-paced sci-fi espionage thriller... light in tone and hard on science...” —Publishers Weekly on Boundary

“The whole crew from Flint and Spoors Boundary are back . . . Tensions run high throughout the Ceres mission... a fine choice for any collection.” —Publishers Weekly on Threshold

“[P]aleontology, engineering, and space flight, puzzles in linguistics, biology, physics, and evolution further the story, as well as wacky humor, academic rivalries, and even some sweet romances.” —School Library Journal on Boundary

Reviews
  •    Tojahn Bonant
    2020
    Mission to the Mughals is another good universe-expanding volume in the Ring of Fire series. The United States of Europe is in need of a good source of opium for medicine and saltpeter for its arms industry and the only good source for either in the 17th century is the Mughal Empire, which dominates India. Unfortunately for the USE, the Mughal Empire has maintained tight restrictions on foreign trade and (apart from the Dutch) most of the firmans (trade permissions for ferenghi (yup, just like Star Trek), aka foreigners) are held by the USE's enemies of the League of Ostend. In order to win the Sultan's favor, the USE sends an embassy with experts on medicine and railroad construction, areas that could be of great benefit to the Mughals. The greatest threat to the USE's trade mission is the internal Mughals politics, especially since the Sultan has received word of the future history brought back with Grantville. Not only has this revealed the ignominious collapse of the Mughal Empire's power over the next century and the British conquest of India, but, more importantly, it has revealed that the seeds of those events were brought about by the succession crisis that followed the current sultan's rule and the rise of his fratricidal Muslim-Fundamentalist son Aurangzeb whose anti-Hindu/Sikh policies turned the subcontinent's religious majority against him and whose wars of expansion weakened the Empire at the same time that rival European powers were expanding their presence, fueled by the great Imperial wars of the late 17th and early 18th century. So the USE mission finds things unsettled in the court upon their arrival, to say the least, and is forced to turn to unconventional allies, Salim, a young Afghan officer who has risen rapidly in Court (thanks to his role in salvaging the Mughal's mission to the USE, which was mostly disastrous thanks to the impolitic idiocy of their ambassador, who ended up getting poisoned by his mercenary escorts (as detailed in a short story in one of the collections, though I can't remember which off the top of my head)) and Begum Sahib Jahanara, the Sultan's favorite daughter and ruler of his harem, who is frustrated at her fate, as her father has sworn she will never marry (due to his fear that it would further complicate the succession), although she is also his most loyal and competent child. Things are further complicated by conflict with the Sikh and with the petty sultanates of the Deccan.

    Unlike some of the other Ring of Fire side stories that have to focus on fairly petty events, there is a lot of big stuff going on in Mission to the Mughals and thanks to a large number of interesting characters (up-time and down-time) and a rigorous exploration of Mughal court politics, this is a really interesting book. In fact, it's got so much going on that it doesn't even really develop some plot points until the end, which is obviously setting up a two or three-way succession war between the three rival prince-claimants after the assassination of the Sultan by Muslim extremists and introduces the possibility of the USE's European enemies throwing their support behind one of the princes (obviously, not the good one) . I also liked that the book walked the fine line between condemning European colonialism while also noting that the Mughal weren't any better, which is a point that often gets overlooked in this sort of book. That is to say that the British were invading foreigners who controlled India through brutal tactics, but so were the Mughals, and so were the Mongols before them and the Greeks before them and the Persians before them, making a big deal about it is silly as the locals' real interest would be the fact that their own dynasty fell apart not some sense of misplaced outrage that Europeans could've conquered them just like they conquered their predecessors. Frankly, the English get screwed in this book, as their small company outpost in India gets its trade rights revoked, then they get massacred, and all for things that other people did in another universe (and not even in their lifetimes). Oddly, the weakest point in this book is the section in the USE at the beginning where Mike Stearns and Francisco Nasi are discussing why a mission to the Mughals is necessary and oddly, whoever wrote the section seems to have forgotten that Stearns is supposed to be a bit of a historian as he seems to have no idea how important India is in the 17th century, which seems out of character. My only other gripe is that this sets up yet another hanging story arc in the Ring of Fire as the book ends with a lot of stuff up in the air and India on the verge of a major civil war (just like France, and the Papal States, and Britain, and Russia, and (possibly) Poland). I enjoy these side stories, but what I really want is for the main series to move forward, and I'm beginning to feel like the sheer number of ongoing plots that the series is juggling has become a bit unwieldy. Again, this isn't really a criticism of this book, just something I worry about as a fan of the series.
    Reply

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