Tuesday, August 9, 2011
The Cross-Time Engineer
You know one of the reasons I love books? Real books, those made of paper and glue or stitching. Maybe with a dustjacket or maybe an old battered paperback. Not a downloaded file or something on a computer screen. A real, live, honest-to-goodness book. Want to know why?
Because they can be passed along from person to person. The Cross-Time Engineer is a case in point. I first started this series as a kid, probably in high school if memory serves. The book is about a fellow named Conrad Schwartz who is an engineer in Poland. He is on vacation, hiking through the mountains of his home country, and stops by some fancy schmancy place that cultivates seeds. The saleswoman is a hot redhead who leads Conrad to believe that she will meet him at a nearby inn later. Conrad buys lots of seeds. Conrad gets stood up, gets drunk, stumbles his way to the bathroom and passes out on the way back.
Turns out where Conrad passed out is used as a portal for time travel. He wakes up in the Middle Ages where he meets a friar who befriends him. Conrad takes the last name Stargard, the town of his birthplace, because of fear of his German sounding last name being held against him. Conrad is a big man, well over six foot, good looking and bright, too. He catches the fancy of a Count Lambert and proceeds to lead Poland into a technological revolution.
The series continues (I believe five or six books in all) with Conrad eventually developing Poland into a superpower and taking on the Mongols. It's a really fun series. Right up there with Darryl Brock's If I Never Get Back as far as good time travel story (and Audrey Niffenegger's Time Traveler's Wife would be below last on the list (don't ask me how. If we can travel through time, we can put things after last)).
Getting back to the physical book itself, I encouraged my mother, a former science teacher, to read them, once I went to college. She enjoyed them and they stayed at her house for a long time. When I moved back to the area and was visiting, I reclaimed them. Then, when my oldest son was looking for stuff to read a few years back, I gave them to him to read. He absconded with them and they have been in his bedroom.
He grabbed The Cross-Time Engineer to re-read it and I think to encourage his younger brother to read it (don't think he's quite there yet as there are some adult topics). Nonetheless, the book found its way to the living room where I, one night upon crashing into a recliner, picked it up and re-read it myself.
How would you do that with an e-book? Maybe if it was a pdf on a thumb drive you could finagle it. But would I have had a pdf of this book, or a thumb drive, some twenty years ago? Of course not. At best it might have been written as a FORTRAN program on a series of 5.25 inch floppy disks.
Books are where it's at. And if you can find this series of books by Leo Frankowski, you should check them out. They're a lot of fun and are quick reads.