The Nantucket series (also known as the Nantucket trilogy or the Islander trilogy) is a set of alternate history novels written by S. M. Stirling. The novels focus on the island of Nantucket in Massachusetts which was transported back in time to 1250 BC due to something called "The Event". Shortly thereafter a conflict develops between the democratic Republic of Nantucket and a group of renegade Americans led by the ex-Coast Guard lieutenant William Walker. The series was nominated for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History in 2000. The series is closely related to Stirling's Emberverse with "The Change" being the synonymous point of departure.
|Book #||Title||UK release||US/CAN release|
|1||Island in the Sea of Time||March 1, 1998 ||February 1, 1998|
|At 9:15 pm EST, March 17, 1998, the island of Nantucket is transported back in time to 1250 BC by the mysterious "Event". As the inhabitants work to create a new civilization, a group of renegades leave to build themselves an empire.|
|2||Against the Tide of Years||May 1, 1999||May 1, 1999 |
|Ten years after the Event, the citizens of the Republic of Nantucket are more interested in trade and exploration than in bringing the renegade Walker to justice. This situation changes after Tartessos launches a sneak attack on Nantucket.|
|3||On the Oceans of Eternity||April 29, 2000||April 10, 2000 |
|After making an alliance with Babylon, Hatti, and Mitanni, the Republic of Nantucket is ready to defeat Walker (who now controls Mycenean Greece) and his allies.|
- Riding Shotgun to Armageddon - Originally published in the anthology Armageddon in 1998 and later republished as a part of On the Oceans of Eternity in 2000. It was again published in 2007 in the anthology Ice, Iron, and Gold.
- Blood Wolf - Published on May 1, 2004, in the The First Heroes anthology.
The Nantucket series is a variant on a well-known theme in Time Travel literature, in which a modern person is hurled back into the past and is able to introduce modern technologies, inventions and institutions, and completely change the past society. The theme goes back to Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" and continued in many later works such as L. Sprague de Camp's classic "Lest Darkness Fall". Poul Anderson disputed the plausibility of such scenarios in his "The Man Who Came Early", in which a man marooned in the past finds that - however capable and skilled in modern-day engineering - it is not possible for one person to introduce modern technologies all by himself, since he would not have "the tools to make the tools to make the tools". The Nantucket series gets around this difficulty by having not a single isolated person hurled into the past, but a whole island, with several thousand people of various backgrounds and skills, and in possession of a considerable amount of the physical and written resources of modern civilization - making their success much more plausible. Eric Flint used a similar literary device in his "1632" and its sequels.
In the three novels of the Nantucket series, a cosmic disturbance characterized by an elliptical dome of fire (called "The Event" in the series) transports the island of Nantucket and its inhabitants back in time into the Bronze Age. The world of circa 1250 BC, which corresponds to the late Heroic Age of Greek mythology, is populated by a large variety of hunting, nomadic and agricultural people, as well as well-documented Bronze Age cultures including Ancient Egypt, the Hittites, and Mycenaean Greece.
The trilogy describes the day-to-day problems of adaptation and survival and the emotional and social trauma of losing connection with the modern world. Much of the plot deals with ongoing conflicts between the different factions of the island's population. Some Nantucket residents wish to dominate the world for their own benefit, others wish to interact with local populations through trade and cultural development, while most just want to survive, work hard, and claw their way back to something approaching their pre-Event way of life.
They have the extreme good luck that, transported in time together with island, is the US Coast Guard barque Eagle captained by a tough, experienced Coast Guard captain, who provides leadership for Nantucket's armed forces. (She insists upon using the term "Coast Guard" rather than "Navy", though what she eventually builds up is a worldwide naval force).
However, also transported back with the ship is the ambitious and totally unscrupulous young lieutenant William Walker, who seizes the opportunity to form a band of renegades, flee the island to live like gods amongst the Bronze Age peoples of Europe and the Middle East. Walker—who, unfortunately, is as smart as he is callous—exploits the 'magic' of gunpowder and iron-forging to build up an empire of his own, one that he believes will inevitably conquer and enslave the entire world.
Therefore, as the series progresses, it becomes clear to Nantucket's scaled-down Government that sitting back and reinventing isolationism is no real option, and that the people of Nantucket have no choice but build an army, a navy, and a set of foreign alliances of their own and take the fight to Walker - and in the process, build up what amounts to an empire of their own.
By the end of the third book, Nantucket is the dominant member of a sizable and expanding network of allies, rather reminiscent of the British Empire (though Britain itself is called "Alba" in the novel, one of Nantucket's protectorates and a source of "warrior tribes" to be enrolled as mercenaries in its armies), and the Nantucketars ("Eagle-People", "Islanders", "Nan-Tukh-Tar", etc.) seem well on their way to re-enacting the United States’ Manifest Destiny three thousand years early, with Native Americans succumbing to disease and becoming virtually extinct on Long Island and the Nantuckers setting out on transcontinental expeditions and reaching California by sea, as well as starting to settle what corresponds to Argentina.
Nantucket has 'Outport' colonies spanning the globe, with bases in the Caribbean, Argentina, the Azores, South Africa, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Mauritius, Bombay, etc.; basically, anywhere there is a good harbor situated close to existing or future trading routes, the Republic is on the scene. The Alban Alliance rules the British Isles where Walker initially tried to carve out a kingdom, and are a close ally, a source of labor and military recruits, and, as its people absorb more of the New Learning, look like being at the heart of a very early Industrial Revolution. Babylon, Hittite Empire and Mitanni (a vassal of Babylon), are also allies. At the end of the third book, these allies are already laying plans for carving up the Caucasus and Persia between them.
- Greater Achaea (Greece), which was the location of Walker's second—and much more successful—attempt at empire-building, but which is now ruled by King Odikweos.
- Tartessos, an Iberian city-state which gained greatly from its new King's decade-long alliance with Walker's Meizon Achaea, and which managed to survive its unsuccessful challenge to Nantucket for control of the sea.
- Shang Dynasty In the book it is mentioned that ships from the Kingdom of Tartessos and the Republic of Nantucket has reached the Chinese coast and exchange gifts with them.
- Egypt, gained some basic New Learning from one of Walker's lieutenants, a fanatical — and naïve — Afrocentrist who was shocked to discover that the "Black Egyptians" were not truly black. After Egypt's defeat at the 'Battle of Armageddon' and the loss of its Canaan territory to Babylon, this lieutenant fled to Meroe, an iron-rich region in east-central Africa, with the intention of giving the black population a leg up before armed whites started arriving in large numbers. Egypt itself still remains out of Nantucket's system of alliances, but some of Pharaoh's officers are being suborned, and an obvious strategic objective would be to dig the Suez Canal three thousand years ahead of schedule.
- Sicilian Republic was formerly an Achaean colony but is now an independent nation after it was invaded by Nantucket. The government is currently divided between the Sicilian natives, freed slaves, and Achaean colonists.
- Alba, the Bronze Age Britain, is an ally of Nantucket after the Islanders defeated Walker and his Sun People allies there.
- As the third (and currently final) novel ends, in Central Asia, Walker's lone surviving heir - a young but highly intelligent and capable girl, a true daughter of her ruthless father - with a collection of mostly Achaean followers, have elected to carve out a new empire in the Fergana Valley region, far, far away from the reach of Islander naval power.
- Agamemnon: King of Mycenae and titular 'High King' of Bronze-Age Achaea. Welcomed William Walker and his 'magics' in 2AE, but was slow in realising that Walker was taking over the kingdom. Rather than continue as Walker's puppet, he committed suicide during an escape attempt. His death caused unrest in the kingdom.
- Marian Alston (later: Alston-Kurlelo): Captain in the U.S. Coast Guard and commander of the Coast Guard training ship Eagle, later military leader and Commodore of the Republic of Nantucket. Alston was born and raised by farmers in South Carolina and has two sisters. Although a lesbian, prior to the event she had been married and had two children. Her husband, John, divorced her after finding out that she was cheating on him with a woman when they lived in South Carolina. In return for not revealing her sexual orientation in court and saving her from being fired from the Coast Guard, he received custody of their children
- Lucy Alston-Kurlelo: Marian and Swindapa's adopted daughter. Biological child of McAndrews and a Fiernan woman. Found in Walkerburg.
- Heather Alston-Kurlelo: Marian and Swindapa's adopted daughter. Fiernan orphan of unknown parentage. Found outside the ruins of her villages with her dead mother nearby.
- Ian Arnstein: Professor in classical history at University of San Diego, he has some knowledge of ancient languages.
- Jared Cofflin: A Nantucket local and chief of police on the island prior to the Event. A Vietnam veteran, Cofflin served as gunner on a gunboat in the Mekong Delta, receiving the Purple Heart at least once after being injured in a mortar attack. Following the Event, he is elected the first leader of the Republic of Nantucket by default. In addition to his function as head of state, he also put in time as a harpooner on a whaling ship. He marries the chief librarian Martha Stoddard.
- Pete Giernas: Nantucket Ranger of Lithuanian descent. Leader of the expedition to traverse the North American continent in 11 AE, which concluded with him leading an uprising against the secret Tartessian base he discovered in California. Eventually moved to the New Sconset outport in Argentina with his two wives to take up the post of chief Ranger.
- Kenneth Hollard: Nantucket teenager who joins the Expeditionary Force to Alba in the first novel and stays in the Republic's fledgling military, eventually being selected to lead the Nantucket mission to Babylonia and command the Allied Armies in the war against Walker's Greater Achaea. Fell in love with and married Raupasha, with whom he emigrated after the war to take up the post of military governor of the Republic's Argentinian outport New Sconset.
- Kathryn Hollard: Twin sister of Kenneth Hollard, also a veteran of the Alban Expeditionary Force and career military. Second-in-command of the mission to Babylonia, where she met, fell in love with, and married King Kashtiliash. According to the terms of their marriage contract, she would be his only Queen and commander of the armies of Babylon, and their children would be raised for half of the year on Nantucket.
- Alice Hong: An Asian American physician. Hong has a sado-masochistic fetish that later evolves into psychotic behavior, according to her own self-diagnosis she is a clinical sadist, that suffer from paranoid tendencies, borderline sociopath and possible antisocial elements. At first believing that Walker only jokes regarding becoming world emperor, she is quick to side with him and later becomes his first wife. She is later also known as The Despotnia Algeos, the Lady of Pain or Avatar of Hekate. She creates an all female military elite, resembling ninjas, known as Claws of Hekate, to whom she is known as the Goddess-on-Earth.
- Isketerol: A Tartessian merchant, early associate of Walker and later King of Tartessos.
- Swindapa Kurlelo (later: Kurlelo-Alston): A young woman from southern Britain. She is of the Star Blood line of Kurlelo, of the Fiernan Bohulugi (People of the Soil or Earth Folk), with knowledge of her tribe's spiritual history, culture and ceremonies. She is also recognized as a warrior by her people, reflected by a spear tattoo on her chest. Later domestic partner of Marian Alston.
- Rosita Menendez: A registered nurse, early associate of Walker, later third wife of Isketerol and lesser Queen of Tartessos
- Helmut Mittler: A former East German Stasi agent, Mittler assists William Walker in turning his Greek empire into a police state. Ian Arnstein, a prisoner of Walker and the Achaeans, later manipulates him into murdering Walker and his family. Mittler is in turn slain by Odikweos as a traitor.
- Odikweos: King of Ithaka, quick to see the value in befriending William Walker and learning from him. Accompanied Walker on the campaign to conquer Sicily, staying on as military governor afterwards, before returning to become Walker's right-hand man and chief Achaean lieutenant. Supported Walker's rise to High King status after Agamemnon's death, but was never truly comfortable with the changes Walker was imposing. Conspired with Ian Arnstein to trick Helmut Mittler into assassinating Walker, then executed Mittler himself and took the throne. As High King, he signed a peace treaty with Nantucket that maintained Greater Achaea as a superpower.
- Ohotolarix: One of William Walker's most loyal followers, originally from the Iraiina tribe of Alba. He later follows Althea Walker into exile after his lord is murdered, vowing to avenge his death.
- Doreen Rosenthal: a female university astronomy student working in a temporary position at the Nantucket observatory. Rosenthal is of Lithuanian descent and can speak the language. She later marries Ian Arnstein.
- Raupasha: Mittanian princess and sole survivor of the former ruling house. During the Assyrian retreat from the advancing Nantucket/Babylonian armies she killed the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I when he attempted to rape her (in our history he survived for over 30 years after this date), and was only rescued from being burned alive by the arrival of Kenneth Hollard and the Nantucket vanguard. Raised and led Mittanian auxiliaries during the war against Greater Achaea, losing an eye and suffering terrible burns saving the Allied army from being outflanked in the last great battle. Later married to Kenneth Hollard and left Mittani for New Sconset. Her story has parallels with that of the Biblical Jael.
- Althea Walker, of the House of the Wolf: A daughter of William Walker and an unnamed chieftain's daughter from Alba taken prisoner in a raid. She is the only survivor of Helmut Mittler's assassination of her family. At the end of the series, Althea flees with Ohotolarix and a small group of loyalists to carve out a new empire in Central Asia's Fergana Valley region, far from the naval might of the Republic of Nantucket.
- William Walker: the main antagonist of the story, is a Coast Guard officer on the Eagle, highly intelligent, self oriented and power hungry. After his defection from the Island, Walker adopts a Wolf's head as his banner and symbol of his house, in reference to Caput gerat lupinum (Latin for "Let his be a wolf's head"), the declaration of outlaw status by a Roman court. Walker shares the name - and some of the characteristics - of the historical 19th Century filibuster and adventurer William Walker; Stirling's choice of this character's name seems more than a coincidence.
Connections to the Emberverse series
- It is also known informally as ISOT, after the first book in the series.
- "The Sidewise Awards for Alternate History, Past Winners". Uchronia: The Alternate History List. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
-  amazon.co.uk. Retrieved on July 15, 2008
-  amazon.com. Retrieved on July 15, 2008
- "The Official S.M. Stirling Web Page: Island in the Sea of Time". smstirling.com. Retrieved 2008-09-24.
- Robert B. Schmunk. "Nantucket Trilogy". Uchronia.net. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
- S. M. Stirling. "Riding Shotgun to Armageddon". Sample Chapters. Night Shade. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
- "The First Heroes promotion card". Tor. Retrieved 2008-09-24.
- S. M. Stirling (2003-02-02). "Report of the World Survey Committee". smstirling.com. Retrieved 2008-09-24.
- Stirling, Stephen Michael (1999). Against the Tide of Years. Roc Books. ISBN 978-0-451-45743-1.
- Stirling, Stephen Michael (2000). On the Oceans of Eternity. Roc Books. ISBN 978-0-451-45780-6.
- Peter Hodges (2008). "Interview with S.M. Stirling, Part Two". Interview. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
- Maps for the Nantucket series
- S. M. Stirling’s Strange World of Alternate History by Fredric Smoler - article on American Heritage discussing various titles by Stirling, including the Nantucket trilogy.