A few months back I filled in for Jim Christina as co-host of The Writer’s Block on LA Talk Radio. The show is the No. 1 rated show for LA Talk Radio with over 700,000 weekly listeners. And I always enjoy my stints as a guest co-host.
Especially when I get to read a book like The Oppenheimer Alternative by Robert J. Sawyer and then talk with the author about the book for an hour.
First off, this is a must read. Its one of only two books I’ve read connected to the show and immediately left a 5-star review for that book. (I’ll be reviewing the other one later on.)
As for why, that is simple. It’s how alt-history sci-fi should be written. Sawyer blended real events with an alternative underlying cause, added in a dash of “what if?” and created a brilliant masterpiece! Highly recommend for readers of the genre and as a how-to guide for future writers and filmmakers of how to do it correctly!
The subject of the book is Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Atomic Bomb. The book covers the events leading up to and following the creation of the bombs in New Mexico as well as the aftermath that followed Oppenheimer until his death in 1967. All of those events, and the people involved with them, are real.
Sawyer did his research and accurately portrays these events and the people involved, using actual recorded quotes, reports and other documents. Where Sawyer heads off into alt-history territory is laying the groundwork for all of those events and quotes to take on a whole new meaning given one bit of fictional information.
An examination of a measurement readout from the Sun leads Oppenheimer and his team to believe that sometime in the early 21st Century a massive eruption from the Sun would destroy every living thing on Earth. Going underground would not save anyone either. The only hope would be to establish a colony on Mars and save whatever portion of humanity they could get there.
With that vital piece of information in play, suddenly all of the events and quotes take on a completely different meaning without altering what they actually meant in the reality we are living in today.
Sawyer’s alternate history solution to saving humanity was well executed and I like to think that Alt-History Oppenheimer enjoyed a much happier life that Actual Oppenheimer wound up living.
The nice thing about Sawyer’s ending is this: All you need to do to confirm our reality is still in play is to go out and find Mars in the night sky. If the light is still red, nothing has changed.
But if its green…