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By Dan DeNeve

Lovers of World War II and historical fiction should take a look at Gregory Benford’s, The Berlin Project.

Benford, a long-time Laguna Beach resident and astrophysicist at UC Irvine, envisions an alternate history where the atomic bomb is completed before Germany surrenders and dropped on Berlin. However, the Nazis do not capitulate despite the destruction of the capital. Rather, the Nazis begin using their own radioactive weaponry, causing the allies some problems. All of the main figures are present in the novel: Robert Oppenheimer, General Leslie Groves, Leo Szilard, William Teller, Enrico Fermi, Wernher von Braun, Werner Heisenberg and Karl Cohen. Much of the story surrounds Cohen, a chemist and mathematician, who discovers an alternate solution for creating the isotope needed to cause a chain reaction: U-235.

The story is detailed, but not fast-paced or suspenseful. Readers will find that Germany’s surrender differs from what actually happened and that changes much of the European landscape and balance of power after the war. Japan is briefly touched on in the story as the next two atomic bombs are dropped on the country.

The story is an enjoyable alternative history that is an easy read.

The library owns a copy of the book, so stop by and get that easy summer beach read and see what might have been.

The Seaside Book Club meets at the Dana Point Library every fourth Monday of the month at 10:30 a.m. This month’s novel is “When Breath Becomes Air.” Registration is not required. For a list of featured titles, call the library at 949.496.5517. Copies of the current title are available at the library service desk.

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