cover image The Berlin Project

The Berlin Project

Gregory Benford. Saga, $26.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8764-1

SF author Benford (the Galactic Center series) makes the relevant science accessible to the lay reader in this intriguing alternate history thriller that speculates on the road not taken in the U.S.’s frantic path toward developing an atomic bomb during WWII. Chemist Karl Cohen’s suggestion that centrifuges be used to create the weapon accelerates the production process, so that it’s available for use in 1944, against a different Axis enemy than the Japanese. En route to that deployment, Benford brings to life all the heavy hitters involved in the Manhattan Project, such as Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard, and Robert Oppenheimer. Diagrams help illustrate the scientific concepts involved, and the story line is laced with stranger-than-fiction facts, such as the national security apparatus’s concerns that stories in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction were based on leaks of classified information. Cohen’s conversion into a field operative later in the book is a stretch. (May)