cover image The Oppenheimer Alternative

The Oppenheimer Alternative

Robert J. Sawyer. CAEZIK, $16.99 trade paper (374p) ISBN 978-1-64710-013-1

This dense alternate history from Hugo and Nebula Award–winner Sawyer (Quantum Night) probes into the ambitions and shortcomings of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. As the reluctant director of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, N.Mex., Oppenheimer believes he has “sold his soul to the atom bomb” and laments the mass killings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Meanwhile, Hungarian physicist Edward Teller’s work on a nuclear fusion bomb leads him to discover that the sun has an unstable core and will extinguish all life on Earth by 2028. Now Oppenheimer has the chance to turn his genius to good, gathering a team of the greatest scientists in the world to figure out how to shield Earth and whether humanity can flee to Mars. Sawyer’s impressive use of scientific and historical detail makes the drastic solution they land on believable, but threatening to derail their progress is communist paranoia and Oppenheimer’s loveless marriage. Though the subplots about Oppenheimer’s romances are poorly handled, Sawyer’s characterization of the man himself are well done and pull back the layers of Oppenheimer’s morals, genius, and grief. Science fiction fans will devour this smart speculative tale. Agent: Chris Lotts, The Lotts Agency. (June)