[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

SFWRITER.COM > Novels > The Oppenheimer Alternative > Review Excerpts

Reviews of
Robert J. Sawyer’s

#1 Locus bestseller!
Aurora Award finalist!

"An imaginative restructuring of a phantasmagoric life into an alternative phantasmagorical story. Oppenheimer fans will be intrigued." 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 Oppenheimer

"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 Amazing Stories [Oppenheimer Alternative US Cover]

"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 present." Locus

"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 speculative tale." Publishers Weekly

"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 accurately." 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." Sci-Fi Bulletin

"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." Aurealis

"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." Diablo Gazette

"If you enjoyed the Oppenheimer movie, Sawyer's The Oppenheimer Alternative is a must-read." Ottawa Review of Books

"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 Weapons

"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 Amazing Stories

"You can call this alternate history or alternate astrophysics (or both). Whatever term you choose, it's a terrific story." Eric Flint, author of 1632

"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 [The Oppenheimer Canadian Alternative Cover]

"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 groundbreaking work." 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." Literary Titan

"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. SFRevu

"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 SciFiScribe

"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 immersive style. 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 Fact

"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 craftsmanship." Booklist

"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 Ender's Game

"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 authors ever." Maclean's: Canada's National Magazine

"Robert J. Sawyer is a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation." 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 Isaac Asimov." 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." The Washington Post

"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." Winnipeg Free Press

More Good Reading

More about The Oppenheimer Alternative
Robert J. Sawyer's awards and honors
What's a Rob Sawyer novel like?
Review index

My Very Occasional Newsletter

About Rob
Book Clubs
Press Kit
How to Write
Email Rob
Canadian SF



Copyright © 1995-2024 by Robert J. Sawyer.