Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Last night I finished In War Times by Kathleen Anne Goonan.

In War Times is almost an alternate history book, but in this case the protagonist thinks about alternate histories, wants to create alternate histories and, in the end, interacts with alternate histories. It follows a soldier who loses his brother at Pearl Harbor, gets involved in the design of directors for anti-aircraft guns, and travels through UK and Europe during the WW2 and lives through the birth of bebop. Early on, he is given the plans to a device that is never clearly described, but could change the world through some foggily described relationship between DNA and consciousness.

The creation of that device, and it's nebulous effects, run through the rest of the book. It is a very literary and intellectual science fiction book, filled mostly with discussion and ruminations on the nature of things. The unspecified nature of the device, and it's effects, does undercut a lot of that discussion though.

The movements, but not the specific character, of the protagonist are based on Goonan's father, who kept a memoir of his life in the war and just after.

There is one other annoying point in the book - a major plot point hinges on the Kennedy assassination and Goonan does seem to subscribe to the liberal trope that if Kennedy had survived, the result would have been Utopia. In truth, history has made it clear that Kennedy was just another scheming, deceptive, over-medicated, philandering politician.

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