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The Oppenheimer Alternative

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The Oppenheimer Alternative

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Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Publisher: CAEZIK SF & Fantasy, 2020

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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While Oppenheimer and his team race to develop the atomic bomb, a member of their team wants something more devastating: a bomb based on the principles of nuclear fusion -- the mechanism that feeds the sun.

Edward Teller's research into the sun leads to a terrifying discovery: that within decades the sun will eject its outermost layer, destroying the inner solar system, including Earth.

As the war ends with the dropping of the fission bombs on Japan, the group of scientists dedicate themselves for decades to saving the future of humanity. Despite the best efforts of the brightest scientists, the prospects for survival look bleak unless these genius can find a way to save humanity.


"You're bad luck for me," said Haakon Chevalier. "I hope you know that."

Robert Oppenheimer looked at his friend, seated next to him on the pink-and-green living-room couch as the party bustled about them. Oppie's sense was the exact opposite: Hoke had brought him nothing but good fortune, including getting him into this offbeat rooming house here on Shasta Road. "Oh?"

"Absolutely. When I go places without you, I'm considered the attractive one."

Oppenheimer made a small chuckle. Chevalier, who had just turned thirty-five, was three years his senior, and was indeed movie-star handsome: gallant, as befitted his last name, and long of face, with wide-spaced eyes and sandy hair swept back in a slight pompadour.

By comparison, Oppie knew he himself was scrawny, his tall body angular, his coarse black hair a wild nimbus, and his duck-footed gait awkward?one friend had described it as a constant falling forward as if he were forever tumbling into the future.

"See that one over there?" continued Hoke, with a subtle nod. "She hasn't glanced at me once since we got here, but you?" Chevalier shook his head in good-natured exasperation. "It's those goddamn eyes of yours, I tell you. Fucking opals."

Oppie was used to compliments about his pale blue eyes: he often heard them called "transparent" or "luminous," but this metaphor was new to him. He smiled as he turned to look at the woman Hoke had indicated, and?

And, my God, he'd seen that lovely face before?he was sure of it. But where? "Wow," said Oppie softly.

"Wow, indeed," agreed Hoke. "And she keeps looking your way. You should go over and say hello."

"I... um..."

"Oh, for Pete's sake, Robert, go! You study the mysteries of the universe; girls are simple by comparison."

Hoke taught French literature at the University of California's Berkeley campus; Oppie was a professor of physics there. Normally, members of such diverse faculties would have little to do with each other, but Oppie loved French poetry, and the two men had become great friends. One advantage Hoke had was a lot of female students?he'd married one, in fact?whereas in Robert's circles, women were rare. "Come on," said Hoke. "Give me a story to tell Barb when I get home. Go try your luck."

Luck. Einstein said that God didn't play dice with the universe?but, then again, God probably wasn't itching to get laid. "All right already," Oppie said, unfolding himself from the couch. Of course, he couldn't just go up and say hello, but Mary Ellen, his landlady, was swirling by in one of her floor-length batik dresses. She threw many parties, often as fund-raisers. This one was for the Republicans in Spain?or maybe it was for the Spanish Nationalists? Whoever the good guys were, anyway; Oppie had come downstairs from his room for donuts and drinks, not the cause.

Copyright © 2020 by Robert J. Sawyer


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