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Einstein's Bridge
John Cramer
Avon Books, 354 pages

Einstein's Bridge
John Cramer
John Cramer lives in Seattle, WA where he is a professor of physics at the University of Washington. He is the author of the acclaimed hard-SF novel, Twistor and writes a bimonthly column, Alternate View, for Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact magazine. He travels regularly to Switzerland to work at the CERN particle accelerator.

Avon Books
Sample Chapter
Twistor Sample
John Cramer's Site
Alternate View Columns
CERN research

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Wayne MacLaurin

Billed as a novel of Hard Science Fiction, Einstein's Bridge is the latest from the author of Twistor. Set in the near future of the early 21st century, Einstein's Bridge uses advanced high-energy physics as a method of introducing First Contact with an alien race (The Makers). The catch is that there is a second malevolent alien race (The Hive) bent on the destruction of Earth.

That much is revealed in the jacket notes. What isn't revealed is that Einstein's Bridge is as much a novel of alternate history as it is hard SF. In the world of Einstein's Bridge, the massive Department of Energy project to convert several hundred square miles of Texas scrub brush into the Superconducting Super Collider (or SSC -- and points go out to all you Superscience and History buffs in the audience who remember the gory details) was not killed in the mid-eighties by a dumbfounded US Congress, but was successfully completed by the Bush and Dole administrations (Dole????). Not a bad piece of artistic license if I do say so...

John Cramer is both a novelist and a physicist at the University of Washington, and at times I found that the novel required a Ph.D. or two itself to really catch all the nuances (much as Carl Sagan's Contact did). But it doesn't really matter -- nuances aside, what fuels a good read is the plot. And the summary on the jacket covers only about half of the book; the second half twists a novel of high-energy physics and first contact into a tale of time loops and alternate histories. The two main characters, who are responsible for discovering the Bridge and contacting the Makers, are caught in a time loop after a failed attempt to prevent the Hive from gaining a foothold on Earth. Thrown back in time to the late 1980's, when the SSC is still in the pre-funding stages, they anxiously set about stopping it from ever coming online -- and thus, in theory, preventing the contact that attracted the Hive's attentions.

Now that makes for an interesting plot twist, doesn't it?

The second act is much more interesting as our intrepid physicists plot to influence the politics of the country and kill the SSC. And, at the same time, prepare the Earth for an eventual contact with the Makers and the Hive. Ultimately, and ironically, we witness the desperate attempts of travellers from an alternate future working to bring about our own present.

Cramer weaves a compelling tale and even manages to deal with the paradox of the two physicists meeting their younger selves. All things considered, Einstein's Bridge is definitely worth the read.

Copyright © 1997 by Wayne MacLaurin

Wayne MacLaurin is a regular SF Site reviewer. More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.


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