Sunday, February 15, 2009

In War Times

Kathleen Ann Goonan is one of the science fiction writers I have been meaning to read for some time. I started with In War Times, probably because of the World War 2 setting. The book involves the development of a never fully explained technology that allows its users to manipulate time. It is designed as a means of dealing with Hitler, is developed in a race against Hitler and eventually comes to have an impact on the Cold War.

With its focus on the impact of technology on history, the book reads as an allegory about the impact of nuclear weapons. The World War 2 chapters show the peculiar life of soldiers involved in the development of secret weapons and much espionage is conducted to capture the technology. The device also allows for communication with alternate universes and the characters deal with a world where the Cold War doesn't happen and the investment in nuclear weapons (have a look here for some numbers) is instead spent on more productive technologies. As you might expect it is a much nicer place than our world.

There is a lot more going on in this book, including the idea the creation of jazz music shows the same new ways of thinking that make quantam mechanics understandable, or at least understandable to some. Given my limited musical theory understanding, much of this went over my head, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Goonan used her father's war time diaries to create her main character. She even uses them in the book, to great effect.

This was a good read, with the techno-optimism of science fiction combining with a humanistic belief that people can do better.

No comments: