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In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan
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In War Times (2007)

by Kathleen Ann Goonan

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1561276,544 (3.43)28
  1. 10
    Half a Crown by Jo Walton (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Both experimient with differnt outomes for World War Two
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Mixes jazz, physics, world war II, espionage into a wonderful stew of alternate history. If the names Jimmie Lunceford, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie (oh come on you have to have heard of Dizzy!), and Thelonious Monk don't mean anything to you, read this book. And if you aren't then seized with a desire to go listen to some jazz, well then, there's not much hope for you. Check out this Spotify playlist of Jazz mentioned in the book: http://t.co/cMTXMGKTds

Goonan always does Hawaii well, also (read the Bones of Time if you have not). ( )
  viking2917 | Mar 16, 2014 |
This is a wonderful novel. It starts with Sam Dance hearing about Pearl Harbour on the radio. He finds out that his brother, serving in the US Navy, was killed there.This sets off the main theme of the novel, a continual rumination on why things happen and how different outcomes would have been better.

Two elements are used to give form to this continual 'why' question. One is a device, which continually changes shape to allow it to blend with the surrounding technology, and the other is music, jazz in particular, which is used to illustrate the ability to create the new by changing elements on the fly.

The device is first given to Sam by Dr. Eliani Handtz, a Hungarian physicist who will pop up again in the novel. Handtz teaches physics, and in her meeting with Sam, introduces him to her own weird synthesis of physics and biology that she believes will lead to a better understanding of human nature, and end the human race's propensity for fratricidal warfare. The device initially resembles the AA gun radar aimer that Sam and his buddy Wink are working on. By the end of the book it has passed through a variety of forms, ending up as part of a board game in the Dance household. Along the way it has also been at crucial foci like Hiroshima and a concentration camp.To add spice, the major Intelligence agencies are also after the device...

This novel sounds rather sad and grim but the jazz motif acts as a liberator of good feelings. Sam and Wink are lucky in getting to see some of the great jazz musicians of the time, although the military police jail them for being in 'off limits' clubs. What they hear inspires them to start their their own band, first playing dance music at venues in England, then more cutting-edge material after D-Day takes them to a comfortable billet at a German cafe.

After the war Sam and Wink part but at a company reunion discover that they live in different realities. Wink's world inspires Sam to hunt out his current Handtz device, which he discovers his radical daughter has been using...

The only false note of the novel for me comes with its climax in the Sixties, which seems too pat and concentrates on one obvious event too much for hindsight to credit.

Why did this book wait five years for a paperback version? ( )
  AlanPoulter | Apr 8, 2013 |
This is probably one of the worst books I have ever read. The main character is completely devoid of flaws, he is a handsome genius who is also approachable, funny, musically talented, popular, kind, with a strong sense of wrong and right; that is to say this character is extremely boring and I hated him about twenty pages in. The storytelling was consistently poor and in some points even unreadable. I don't think the author has a science background, the physics of her universe were described either in strictly philosophical terms instead of employing any actual science. The worst part is when she tries to use music theory to explain physics, it's a miserable failure. Skip this book. ( )
  bookfairie | Jun 22, 2012 |
I should have liked this book, because I love music and science fiction. The two of them together should be like heaven. But I found that the author tries to explain music in words that don't do a good job of conjuring up the experience, and seems to try to draw parallels between jazz and other aspects of life that just don't make sense and couldn't bring in a suspension of belief. She writes explicitly in her afterward that "the physicists, chemists, and biologists of the nineteenth and twentieth centures birthed modernity and its reflection and interpretation in literature, art, and music. Our art and our science are inextricably linked." That idea is the basis of a good part of the text, but I simply don't buy it. Jazz has definite roots, and they aren't in physics or chemistry or biology. The people involved with jazz knew little or nothing of those disciplines. There is a relationship in that both areas developed contemporaneously and both probably resulted from aspects of society. Yet, creativity in music and creativity in science are fundamentally different. For one thing, musicians strive endlessly to invent something brand-new, and it need not be founded on the past. Scientists strive endlessly to learn something new, and it is always based on what's been discovered in the past. The author has an interesting idea, but it just doesn't make sense to me though the author believes it.

There is a lot in the book about the development of radar which in my opinion makes good history of science but not a very interesting plot for a book of fiction. I do give the author credit for a good try, though! The author writes that her own father was involved in the development of radar, and portions of his actual written memories from the war are incorporated into the book verbatim. This had to be a great challenge to write, and was surely a work of love. Yet I think this self-imposed restriction on the content of the book hurts the narrative.

I wasn't able to get into this book from either of my supposed "lightning rods" and was disappointed. Someone else who relates to music differently or who would enjoy reading the history of some real technical developments interspersed with some far-future timetravel device will have different mileage. Not my cup of tea. Perhaps the next book she writes will appeal to me more. ( )
  bibliojim | Oct 19, 2009 |
This alternative history was an interesting read, although it did drag at times. If you enjoy World War II literature (and I am on a WWII kick for sure), with a little bit of sci-fi thrown in, then pick this one up. I may look at Goonan's Nanotech Quartet in the future. ( )
  EndsWell | May 9, 2008 |
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Epigraph
Everything is determined by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust - we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper

      -- Albert Einstein, The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929
[Bergander] and his family listened avidly, if perilously, to the BBC. He heard the famous "black propaganda" broadcasts of the British journalist Sefton Delmer and - far more effectively from the Allied viewpoint - Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. To young Bergander, American music possessed the status of holy writ. He thought: people who make music like this must win the war.

      -- Sir Max Hastings, Armageddon: The Battle For Germany, 1944-1945
Dedication
This book is dedicated to Thomas Edwin Goonan and to all of those who served in World War II.
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Dr. Eliani Hadntz was only five foot three, though she had seemed taller in the classroom, and Sam had not suspected that her tightly pulled-back hair was a mass of wild black curls until the evening she sat on the edge of his narrow boardinghouse bed.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765313553, Hardcover)

Sam Dance is a young enlisted soldier in 1941 when his older brother Keenan is killed at Pearl Harbor. Afterwards, Sam promises that he will do anything he can to stop the war.
 
During his training, Sam begins to show that he has a knack for science and engineering, and he is plucked from the daily grunt work of twenty-mile marches by his superiors to study subjects like code breaking, electronics, and physics in particular, a science that is growing more important to the war effort. While studying, Sam is seduced by a mysterious female physicist that is teaching one of his courses, and given her plans for a device that will end the war, perhaps even end the human predilection for war forever. But the device does something less, and more, than that.
 
After his training, Sam is sent throughout Europe to solve both theoretical and practical problems for the Allies. He spends his free time playing jazz, and trying to construct the strange device. It's only much later that he discovers that it worked, but in a way that he could have never imagined.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Sam Dance is a young enlisted soldier in 1941 when his older brother, Keenan, is killed at Pearl Harbor. Afterward, Sam promises that he will do anything he can to stop the war." "During his training, Sam begins to show that he has a knack for science and engineering, so he is picked by his superiors from the daily grunt work of twenty-mile marches to study subjects such as code breaking, electronics, and physics, a science that is growing ever more important to the war effort. While studying, Sam is seduced by a mysterious female physicist teaching one of his courses and given her plans for a device that will end the war, perhaps even end the human predilection for war forever.""After his training, Sam is sent to high-pressure areas throughout Europe to solve both theoretical and practical problems for the Allies. He's even sent to the Pacific on the eve of the first atom bomb. When he has free time, Sam plays jazz and uses the chaotic nature of the music to help him reconstruct the strange device." "It takes more than a year, but the device is built and started. And then something happens, but Sam cannot initially discern what it might be, other than that the device melts into a solid block of metallic substance." "It's only much later that he discovers that the device worked, but in a way that he could never have imagined - he finds that he and the others exposed to the device can move among versions of reality and back in time, and possibly change history."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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