Epeolatry Book Review: The Oppenheimer Alternative

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Title: The Oppenheimer Alternative
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Genre: Alternate History
Publisher: SFWRITER.COM Inc.
Release Date: 2nd June, 2020

Synopsis: While J. Robert Oppenheimer and his Manhattan Project team struggle to develop the A-bomb, Edward Teller wants something even more devastating: a weapon based on nuclear fusion — the mechanism that powers the sun. But Teller’s research leads to a terrifying discovery: by the year 2030, the sun will eject its outermost layer, destroying the entire inner solar system — including Earth.

After the war ends, Oppenheimer’s physicists combine forces with Albert Einstein, computing pioneer John von Neumann, and rocket designer Wernher von Braun — the greatest scientific geniuses from the last century racing against time to save our future.

Meticulously researched and replete with real-life characters and events, The Oppenheimer Alternative is a breathtaking adventure through both real and alternate history.

The greatest minds of science gather together to save the Earth in the new book The Oppenheimer Alternative (377 pgs.) written by Robert J. Sawyer. The Manhattan Project scientist, think with the completion of the A-bomb, their work is done; when they then discover the sun is going to explode in the next hundred years and they are the only ones who can stop it. The book becomes a race to see if these talented men and women can pull off the impossible and save humanity. 

As Sawyer states, every character in the book is a famous historical person; Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi and J. Robert Oppenheimer, are just a few of the familiar names. Sawyer does a great job at bringing out each of their personalities. Because the characters were real people the book has a familiar feeling as you read about them. You know these names from documentaries about the atomic bomb, and the space program. I loved that Sawyer starts each chapter with a quote or excerpt from one of these scientist that I found perfect for enriching the story. When possible he used known dialogue. The bibliography is hefty with research. 

Sawyer structures his book, using a sequential timeline that touches on the major events of history: the dropping of the 2 atomic bombs; the space program; JFK’s assassination; the McCarthy hearings. This structure keeps the book moving. The reader has a better connection to the history that is unfolding in these pages.

Sawyer also does a wonderful job of explaining the science. It is easy to understand and compelling. Fusion, fission, black holes, physics and many of the Einstein’s principals get trotted out and brilliantly explained for us laypeople.

This book is a timely read, with the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs in 2020. Sawyer makes the reader understand the guilt, some of the scientists felt, at creating these weapons

Sawyer, is one of only eight writers to win all three of the world’s top awards for best science-fiction novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He has also won the Robert A. Heinlein Award, the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award, and the Hal Clement Memorial Award; the top SF awards in China, Japan, France, and Spain; and a record-setting sixteen Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards (“Auroras”). Sawyer is a member in the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

Sawyer lives just outside Toronto. His website and blog are at sfwriter.com, and he is on Facebook and Twitter. 

The Oppenheimer Alternative is for people who love historical science fiction. I love when a book entertains and educates me. I give this book 5 out of 5. Enjoy.

5 stars

Available from Bookshop and Amazon,

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Warren Nast

Warren Nast is a freelance writer with articles in Harrisburg Magazine. Nast can be reached at his website: Penshido.com or followed on twitter @penshido. Nast lives in Camp Hill, PA.

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