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Customer Review

on 8 April 2013
This is a wonderful novel novel. It starts with Sam Dance hearing about Pearl Harbor 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.
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Product Details

4.1 out of 5 stars
4
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