Wednesday 3 June 2020

The Oppenheimer Alternative - Robert J. Sawyer

The Oppenheimer Alternative
Robert J. Sawyer
Red Deer Press
ISBN 9780889956179
eISBN 9781988415239

It has been a few years since I have read a book by Robert J. Sawyer, I read a few when much younger before I started keeping track of what I read. And I very much enjoyed the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy when the first book, Hominids, was the one book for the Kitchener Waterloo community. But this book I have been excited to read since it was first announced. I followed Robert’s social media and some cover variations, and discussion about the book and the themes presented. The novel released on the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb.

The story begins with a list of 63 Dramatis Personae. Many of the names will stand out from history, even for those with just a general knowledge. We are informed that all the characters were real persons. And all but one is now deceased. We are also informed that the chapter head quotes are all real. And also that some of the dialogue in the story is from historic sources.

I would start by stating that this book is hard to put down. In fact, I read it in a single sitting. I kept saying just one more chapter, again and again. It is a wonderful piece of science fiction. And overall an amazing story. I was surprised by the ending, even though I knew a twist was coming. The novel is just brilliant. It is thought provoking and immensely entertaining. It is An alternative history story or should we say alternative future story but based on real events, real people, and science proven and theorized.

In this story a group of brilliant scientists lead by J. Robert Oppenheimer, Oppie, to his friends. After the destruction wrought by the atomic bombs, and the potential destructive power let loose in the world, Oppie gathers a group to work towards saving humanity from a natural disaster. Oppies’s team with the addition of Einstein, and Wernher von Braun race against time, all while trying to keep their discoveries from the public and the government. Author Matthew Kelly often states: “We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.” In this story they have under 100 years a lot to accomplish if they hope to succeed. 

The story balances science fact with science fiction. Walking a fine line weaving between the two. It is masterfully written. It presents many of the historic characters in at times unflattering light. It also presents the core group as doing what it takes to try and reach their goal. This story is an excellent read. I have not read a lot of science fiction or fantasy over the last few years. But after returning with this work I know I will need to track down more of Sawyers writings. An excellent read from a master of the genre.

Books by Robert J. Sawyer:
Neanderthal Parallax Trilogy


Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy:
Fossil Hunter

WWW Trilogy:
WWW: Wake
WWW: Watch
WWW: Wonder

Other Books:
Quantum Night
Red Planet Blues
Flash Forward
The Terminal Experiment
Illegal Alien
Calculating God
Factoring Humanity
Golden Fleece
End of an Era
Iterations and Other Stories
Identity Theft and Other Stories
The Oppenheimer Alternative

1 comment:

David B.Haukenfrers said...

If you liked this re-imagining you might enjoy The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford a perfect bookend to Robert Sawyer's work.