Forty-year-old atomic physicist Jason Dessen is living a normal life in present-day Chicago. Working as a undergrad physics professor, he lives in a brownstone with his wife and teenage son. Every Thursday evening, the family enjoys a home-cooked meal and spends time together. Sometimes, Jason and his wife ponder on what their lives could have been before their son—but Jason believes he has a life that he wouldn't give up for anything.
On a brilliant and beautiful autumn day, shortly after noon in downtown Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by former U.S. Marine Lee Harvey Oswald. As the President's motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository, gunshots reverberated across Dealey Plaza. JFK died less than an hour later from fatal gunshot wounds to the back of his head and neck. The following day, Oswald was arrested, then shot in the stomach and killed by Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner and JFK fan.
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The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
“They know a million tricks, those novelists.” ― Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle
The first season of Amazon Prime’s The Man in the High Castle is based on Philip K. Dick’s book of the same title and is now continuing into its second season. The series does an astonishingly good job of immersing viewers in an alternate history where the Axis powers won World War II, and America has been divided between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for years.
The players include spies and rebels, conflicted commanders, and ordinary people caught up in frequently lethal events. Even with all that is going on, things are not what they seem.
If you enjoy richly imagined worlds of might-have-been, battlefield conflicts that lead to difficult choices on the home front, or dangerous worlds where the truth lies beneath everyday appearances, try these books by other novelists who know a million tricks.
Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney
In a war-riven world, why will saving humanity require . . . a poet? At twenty-six, Rydra Wong is the most popular poet in the five settled galaxies. Almost telepathically perceptive, she has written poems that capture the mood of mankind after two decades of savage war. Since the invasion, Earth has endured famine, plague, and cannibalism, but its greatest catastrophe will be Babel-17. Sabotage threatens to undermine the war effort, and the military calls in Rydra. Random attacks lay waste to warships, weapons factories, and munitions dumps, and all are tied together by strings of sound, broadcast over the radio before and after each accident. In that gibberish Rydra recognizes a coherent message, with all of the beauty, persuasive power, and order that only language possesses. To save humanity, she will master this strange tongue. But the more she learns, the more she is tempted to join the other side . . . (publisher’s description)
The Big Time (Change Wars #1) by Fritz Leiber
Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) may be best known as a fantasy writer, but he published widely and successfully in the horror and science fiction fields. One of his major SF creations is the Change War, a series of stories and short novels about rival time-traveling forces locked in a bitter, ages-long struggle for control of the human universe where battles alter history and then change it again until there’s no certainty about what might once have happened. The most notable work of the series is the Hugo Award-winning novel The Big Time, in which doctors, entertainers, and wounded soldiers find themselves treacherously trapped with an activated atomic bomb inside the Place, a room existing outside of space-time. (publisher’s description)
This readalike is in response to a customer's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse other book matches here.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow and Reds like him, are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies...even if it means he has to become one of them to do so. (catalog summary)
The other books in the trilogy:
Imagine a world where books are black market. Where the written word on printed paper is so illegal you could be killed for owning or sharing it. Sure, you can have eBooks delivered to you freely, but the chance that you are reading the author's original words are slim. For the Great Library, in order to make information available to many people and to protect the printed books themselves, controls the dissemmination of every last word.
Sometimes we want to have an adventure without leaving the comforts of home. Maybe we want to experience what it is like to live in the rainforest but don’t want to suffer the insects or tropical diseases. Maybe we want to experience what it is like to travel the world but don’t have the money and time to do so. Many teens (and adults) long for the excitement of travel, exploring the world, being challenged by nature, or meeting new people, and reading can be the ticket to those experiences. A well-written book can drop us into different parts of the world or different ways of life and allows us to feel like we are there, experiencing the excitement, the dangers, and the challenges—even if we haven’t left our sofas.
I thought that Manhattan Projects was weird, and then the main characters stuck a cybernetic spike into Franklin Roosevelt's head, creating the world's first artificial intelligence.
Woe to anyone hoping that Jonathan Hickman's comic book series would be an accurate retelling of the construction of the atomic bomb. Sure, it gets mentioned from time to time.
The real driving force of Hickman's story, which ended up on many top comics lists last year, is the idea that the atomic bomb is just one of the hideous creations that super-geniuses Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, and Richard Feynman were working on. The other stuff... it ain't pretty.
Alina Starkov has never felt like she belonged. Orphaned and adopted by a duke, Alina meets an equally parentless boy named Mal. The two are inseparable, referred to by the duke's servants as melenchki, little ghosts, as they giggle throughout the vast house. Of course, such things cannot always stay the same.
Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, is set in an alternate version of pre-revolution Russia. In this nation, known as Ravka, the new world is starting to infringe on the old. It used to be the Grisha who maintained order. The Grisha are powerful beings who can manipulate living things, the elements, and metals as if using magic. New weaponry and a multiple-front war are changing all of that though.
In Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Abraham Lincoln uncovers a terrible truth at a tender age: that vampires infiltrate every corner of society and are “living man’s” mortal enemy. Lincoln’s father, a classic underachiever, idiotically defaults on a loan to one of the bloodsuckers, who warns that he will have to “take it in other ways.” It is no coincidence then that Abraham’s aunt, uncle, and beloved mother die quickly thereafter from a painful illness with “scorching fevers, delusions, and cramps.” Old folks called this the “milk sickness,” believed to be brought on by drinking tainted milk, but that wasn’t the case this time. Eventually Abraham learns of the connection and vows to “kill every vampire in America.”
One of my patrons called me to discuss One Thousand White Women: the Journal of May Dodd by Jim Fergus. (RC 47157) This is a fictionalized account of a true incident in which an Indian delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. to negotiate a treaty.
One of the Indians was a Cheyenne leader named Little Wolf. As part of the negotiations, Little Wolf requested that his tribe be supplied with 1,000 white women, in an effort to assist in the assimilation of the Cheyenne peoples with the white man. Predictably, the request was met with derision and horror.