SFWRITER.COM > Novels > The Oppenheimer Alternative > Review Excerpts
#1 Locus bestseller!
Robert J. Sawyer's
The Oppenheimer Alternative
Aurora Award finalist!
"An imaginative restructuring of a phantasmagoric life into an
alternative phantasmagorical story. Oppenheimer fans will be
Martin J. Sherwin,
co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American
Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert
Oppenheimer, the basis for Christopher Nolan's movie
"My favorite Sawyer book of all; the extrapolation is as brilliant
as the history. An extremely clever science-fictional tale that
grows naturally out of the research done by extremely smart
people on the way to the development of the atomic age. They will
live for you after you are done reading this book; this is what
they were really like. A solid award contender!"
Steve Fahnestalk in
"Sawyer does a magnificent job.
Every individual pops right off the page, fully integrated both
into their era and amongst themselves. The whole book is rich in
emotional depth. This fine novel makes explicit its relevance to the
"I loved it! I know the history of this period well and I'm one or two
degrees of separation from many of these people. Sawyer's portrayals ring
true to me. Getting to read this early was a treat!"
Lee Smolin, bestselling author
of The Trouble with Physics
"Impressive use of scientific and historical detail and Sawyer's
characterization of the man himself pull back the layers of Oppenheimer's
morals, genius, and grief. Science fiction fans will devour this smart
"You can always count on Sawyer, a storyteller of the first order, for a good read.
The Oppenheimer Alternative
delivers on that count, but it's also a book that explores, on a human level, the
sort of bigger questions raised by world-changing events, both real and imagined."
The Toronto Star
"With typical stylistic verve and a remarkable degree of research,
Sawyer has crafted a world that is an apt and accurate reflection
of our own while also folding in the shifts and changes that create
this alternate reality.
The Oppenheimer Alternative
is precisely the kind of well-constructed and thoughtful speculative fiction
that we've come to expect from Robert J. Sawyer. It's a fascinating premise
brought to fruition by one of our most gifted sci-fi authors."
The Maine Edge, Bagor, Maine
"A truly science fictional work of alternate history which turns
on the decisions and discoveries of the great
physicists who wrote the history of the 20th century: Einstein,
Fermi, Gödel, and Oppenheimer. They are the vividly
realized, all-too-human characters who people this novel, and
give its brilliant speculations human life and blood.
I read this book at a gulp, and you should too
now I'm going to go read it again. Bravo!"
S.M. Stirling, author of
Dies The Fire
"You might think you know what to expect from a Robert J. Sawyer
book: something set in a near-future world similar to our own;
real people dealing with the social implications of ideas from
the edges of current science; fascinating, well-dramatized
exploration of philosophical and ethical matters. The Oppenheimer
Alternative, an alternate history thriller set in the opening
years of the atomic age, might seem a bit of a departure. Not to
worry, this book has everything a reader wants from Sawyer.
Well-drawn alternate history, rigorous SF thriller, social
commentary, redemption narrative
The Oppenheimer Alternative
reimagines one of the most influential lives of the twentieth
century. Well worth reading."
Analog Science Fiction & Fact
"Incredibly realistic: the characters, locations, the era, and
even the science. I felt like I was back in Los Alamos and
I should know: I worked there! Breathlessly riveting; Sawyer
pulls it off masterfully."
Doug Beason, former Associate
Laboratory Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory
"The Oppenheimer Alternative is an early Hugo Award favorite.
For those who love science as much as science fiction, this is undoubtedly
the best novel of 2020 by far."
Milwaukee Science Fiction League
"The feel and detail of the Manhattan Project figures is deep and
well done. I knew many of these physicists, and Sawyer nails them
Gregory Benford, author of
The Berlin Project and Edward Teller's graduate student
"An excellent blend of hard science, alternate history and the inner workings of one of the key men of the 20th century. Highly recommended."
"Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Robert J Sawyer balances effortless prose
with extensive research to create a novel so well-crafted that the lines between
reality and alternate reality blur. Combining a whole lot of science with a whole
lot of speculation, The Oppenheimer Alternative
succeeds as an amazing border-hopper between the reality of science and the
boundless imagination. It's the perfect addition to hard science fiction collections."
"I enjoyed it tremendously! Really great, a page turner. I was
hooked from the beginning to the end. Another fine addition to
the Sawyer canon!"
Andre Bormanis, producer,
The Orville and Cosmos
"An historical fiction masterpiece. Part philosophical, part human interest, and
part thriller, the novel is a fascinating and hearty read. The novel had me
constantly fact checking, then shaking my head when a detail
proved historically accurate>.
The Oppenheimer Alternative
is a book I will not soon forget."
"Quite possibly the best novel Sawyer has ever written and definitely one of the best novels I've ever read."
Campbell Award-winner Michael A. Burstein, author of
I Remember The Future
"An expert and engrossing knitting of the threads of history,
with genuine characters of the mid 20th Century, to weave out a
compulsive fictional narrative."
Jem Rolls, author of the play
The Inventor of All Things about Leo Szilard
"Sawyer portrays brilliantly and poignantly the struggles of the
scientists who started it all and were consequently obliged to
bear an unbearable burden."
James Christie, Chair, Project
Ploughshares, member organization of the Nobel Peace
Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear
"Every single character in this book is a real person. That's right,
all of them. Even some of the dialogue is real. This is one of the
most ambitious books I've come across. I can't imagine the amount
of research that went into giving each character a believable voice
and personality (actually, I can, the bibliography runs 30 pages on
my phone), but this is Robert J. Sawyer so maybe I shouldn't be
surprised. In some ways, it reminded me of the play Copenhagen
by Michael Frayn, with more thrills, cool rockets and a doomsday
scenario to boot."
Sylvain Neuvel at Tor.com
"A delight to read enthralling and exciting, not to mention highly
amusing at times. Thoroughly entertaining; [the ending] lifts the novel
from alternate history into the realm of bravura science-fiction extrapolation
in keeping with the most daring SF concepts offered in the past."
R. Graeme Cameron in
"You can call this alternate history or alternate astrophysics
(or both). Whatever term you choose, it's a terrific story."
Eric Flint, author of
"A novel as expansive as the physics (and physicists) under
whose watch the original Project Orion was launched."
George Dyson, author of
Project Orion: The Atomic Spaceships 1957-1965
"The novel is just brilliant: thought-provoking and immensely entertaining.
I read it in a single sitting; I kept saying just one more chapter,
again and again. An excellent read from a master of the genre."
Book Reviews and More
"A wealth of detail lends Sawyer's novel the grounded believability
necessary to pull off a fictionalization of events, speculating on
the inner lives of the players, the meaning behind the discoveries
they made, and the philosophical impact thereof. Sawyer employs a
no-nonsense style reminiscent of that of Isaac Asimov or Ben Bova,
which makes the narrative easy to navigate. The result is a realistic
and intriguing look at Oppenheimer and his work."
Booklist, journal of the American Library Association
"Based on extensive research into the life of Oppenheimer, Sawyer gives us
wonderful characterizations of the people around him, especially the
physicists who mostly became celebrities in their own right:
Einstein, Fermi, Szilard, Feynman, Teller. The author wisely doesn't
shy away from Oppenheimer's darker side, giving us a picture of an
extremely complex person whose motivations never seem exactly clear,
even to himself. Sawyer brings his great love of science to the novel,
providing clear, but never condescending descriptions of Oppenheimer's
The Hub: Winnipeg's Gateway to the World
"This riveting story tackles various moral issues that face humanity in
a tumultuous time. I enjoyed how emotional this novel is, which I suppose
was a surprise to me as I didn't expect it to be this dramatic.
Robert J. Sawyer has crafted a masterpiece of science fiction that
presents an alternate history that is absolutely thrilling. Five stars."
"One of the most amazing alternate histories ever written."
Sci-Fi Saturday Night
"There are some writers who, even if they do not write the same book
over and over again, write very similar books. Not so with Robert Sawyer,
who pairs an enormous imagination with extensive research. Whether writing
about a dinosaur Galileo, atheist Neanderthals, or a self-aware
World Wide Web, Sawyer makes his characters, and the world in which they live,
come alive. If there is one thing Sawyer's books do have in common,
in addition to their overall excellence, it is his concern for morality
and determining the right thing to do. In this book, this concern is
reflected in discussions over the nuclear bomb and later keeping the
end of the world a big secret from ordinary people. Fans of historical novels
set in the recent past will love
The Oppenheimer Alternative.
Fans of alternate history who are willing to wait a while for the
speculative content will find their patience rewarded. Readers interested
in science, and how scientists interact also will find much to enjoy.
"Sawyer has outdone himself! No one could have taken on this
project with such gusto and with such a search for the truth as
this outstanding author. I've never read such a complete and
thrilling account of Oppenheimer's world."
Jonas Saul, author of the
Sarah Roberts series
"Oppenheimer is a truly unique and memorable protagonist and readers will
love the sci-fi turn of events as the story progresses, creating a
one-of-a-kind read. Rating: 10/10."
Thriller author Anthony Avina
"What Sawyer pens is a Greek tragedy of sorts, a Shakespearean drama with
dueling senses of self-worth. Not only educational and well written, it's
also a fun read."
The Woven Tale Press
"Five stars; this is a must-read. 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!"
Richard Paolinelli at
"Monumental; phenomenal. I come out amazed by the quality, the audacity, and
the way genres and sub-genres were skillfully mixed. Do not miss this novel.
You will enjoy it all the more so if you already know and appreciate
Sawyer who, over many years and many works, has lost none of his fluid and
The Oppenheimer Alternative is Robert J. Sawyer's masterpiece. Lovers of science, science fiction, alternate history, and history should all go for it: it's a very, very great novel."
French blogger Apophis
"An absolutely exciting novel; everything is masterful, all pushing toward a brilliant and moving ending one that Brian Greene would describe as elegant. Faulkner judged fiction superior to journalism, and here Sawyer delivers fiction which tells a human truth better than a historical account could. Breathtaking; it has been a long time since I have loved a novel so much."
French blogger Gromovar
Praise for Robert J. Sawyer
"A new Robert J. Sawyer book is always cause for celebration."
Analog Science Fiction and
"Sawyer not only has an irresistibly engaging narrative voice but
also a gift for confronting thorny philosophical conundrums. At
every opportunity, he forces his readers to think while holding
their attention with ingenious premises and superlative
"Can Sawyer write? Yes with near-Asimovian clarity, with
energy and drive, with such grace that his writing becomes
invisible as the story comes to life in your mind."
Orson Scott Card, author of
"Robert J. Sawyer is by any measure one of the world's leading
(and most interesting) science-fiction writers. His fiction is a
fascinating blend of intellectually compelling big ideas and
humane, enduring characters."
The Globe and Mail
"Sawyer, an articulate fountain of ideas, is the genre's northern
star in fact, one of the hottest SF writers anywhere. By
any reckoning Sawyer is among the most successful Canadian
Maclean's: Canada's National
"Robert J. Sawyer is a writer of boundless confidence and bold
The New York Times
"Sawyer's books always rich in science, action, and
profound thinking never fail to surprise, delight, and
cause us to transcend our ordinary thinking. I've read Crichton,
Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, King, and Koontz and Sawyer
outdoes them all."
Clifford A. Pickover, author of
Time: A Traveler's Guide
"A polished, exciting writer. Sawyer writes with the scientific
panache and grandeur of Arthur C. Clarke and the human touch of
Quill & Quire
"Cracking open a new Robert J. Sawyer book is like getting a gift
from a friend who visits all the strange and undiscovered places
in the world. You can't wait to see what he's going to amaze you
with this time."
John Scalzi, author of
Old Man's War
"Sawyer is Canada's answer to Michael Crichton."
The Toronto Star
"No reader seeking well-written stories that respect, emphasize
and depend on modern science should be disappointed by the works
of Rob Sawyer."
"Sawyer is a terrific writer. He can write about the most
sophisticated science while giving readers the room to understand
what's happening and follow the plot."
More Good Reading
More about The Oppenheimer Alternative
Robert J. Sawyer's awards and honors
What's a Rob Sawyer novel like?
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