In this time-travel thriller, debut authors Miller and Manas spin a clever, original variation on a classic alternative history premise: What if it were possible to travel back in time and kill Adolf Hitler?
Jacob Newman, a brilliant scientist and nanotechnology expert who consults with the CIA on projects of national security, receives a mysterious packet containing his German grandfather’s diaries from the 1920s, which detail a failed plot to poison Hitler at the beginning of his ascent to power. Although Newman’s wife is dying of cancer, a global crisis soon takes him from her bedside. An alien vessel has been found on the bottom of the ocean, off the coast of Chile. Inside the elegantly described “cavernous zeppelin shaped” space are eight giant floating monitors—arranged “like some sort of avant-garde Stonehenge”—that show images from horrific moments in human history, including the Crusades and the Holocaust. The ship also contains some strange pieces of alien technology; most notably, a small object the scientists dub the Kronos Device, which, as Newman discovers, facilitates time travel. The scientists soon come to the consensus that someone or something has been sitting in judgment of humankind—and an ominous verdict could be delivered at any time. Inspired by his grandfather’s diary and desperate to afford humankind another chance in the eyes of the mysterious alien power, Newman decides to go back in time and ensure that the plot to kill Hitler is successful, thereby—in theory—erasing the ensuing heinous acts from history. Sci-fi fans will be familiar with what happens next: By interfering with the past, Newman inadvertently creates a future that is far worse. But here the novel displays some unexpectedly creative plotting: Newman’s attempt to undo the damage he’s done involves him in his own mind-bending parallel life, as well as the prospect of a harrowing sacrifice. The prose is unfussy, the pacing appropriately brisk, and the past and future sequences show the authors’ admirable imaginative gifts. Miller and Manas’ tour de force packs plenty of entertainment value, and the ending tantalizes with the possibility of future past installments.
An impressively original take on alternative history.