In War Times

Posted by : atcampbell | On : January 22, 2013

In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Seven people gathered at our Organizer’s home for this meeting, and another person submitted comments by e-mail. Our topic, In War Times, is a World War II science fiction novel involving a young American soldier who gets involved in secret physics research projects during the war. The soldier is a big fan of jazz music, which turns out to have a major role in the story. Many of the scenes of military life in the book are based on letters written by the author’s father while he served in the war himself. Three of us had read the author before. All of us started the book, and four finished it.

About half of us thought the book worked best when viewed as a straight historical novel about the war. This group felt the author’s prose style was good, liked the jazz and big band elements, and felt the scenes of military life were well-depicted. The concentration camp scenes were so vivid that they bothered many of us. The people in this group felt that the science fictional elements of the story didn’t work for them.

A couple of people simply couldn’t get into the book. One was not into music and was tired of World War II novels, and said the absence of a strong science fictional hook to the story kept him from wanting to read further. Another person felt the scenes of military life just didn’t ring true to him.

One person at the meeting simply loved the book. He said it was a contemplative story, and that it worked best when viewed as a poem rather than a traditional book. He said that it was a many-worlds novel and an anti-war novel. He appreciated how the book ties music to quantum science. He felt the primary science-fictional action in the book was an unsuccessful attempt to change the past. He noted that this book’s strengths were not to all readers’ tastes.

Another liked the book nearly as much. She said the book’s explanation of dissonant jazz worked well for her. She like jazz as a metaohor for time, which made the rest of the book fall into place for her. She liked the idea that timelines could touch and be integrated. She felt the book contained many instances of beautiful writing, particularly near the end.

After the meeting, many of us gathered for a nice meal at Opal Divine’s.

–A. T. Campbell, III