by Mona Clee



310pp/$5.50/January 1996

Branch Point

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Mona Clee's first novel, Branch Point has a premise with a lot of potential. Three young adults living in a scientific retreat one hundred years after the Cuban Missle Crisis blew up are sent back to 1962 to avert the catastrophe. Their time machine has the ability to accomplish a total of four jumps back in time to permit them to rescue the world from nuclear disaster if the event should occur.

Unfortunately, Clee does not manage to pull her premise off. Her major difficulty is her portrayal of historical figures. The Jack Kennedy the children surprise late one night in the oval office appears as a complete imbecile, trusting the teenagers enough that he refuses to act without their advice, placing a value on the words of these mysterious strangers even higher than the recommendations of his brother, Bobby.

After averting the war, the teenagers move to San Francisco, becoming millionaires because of their ability to invest and predict the future, despite the fact that the future they are predicting is not the future from which they came. They take breaks from their amassing of fortunes to visit the Soviet Union and help avert other nuclear Holocausts, ensuring that the world continues on to bear a resemblence to our own world.

At recurring points in the book, the main character, Anna Leaf Fall-Levchenko (Russian scientists were visiting the top-secret bunker on the eve of the Cuban Missle Crisis) runs into Bill Clinton, when he met Jack Kennedy in the Rose Garden, working on McGovern's campaign, when he is running for the Presidency. Although it is clear Clee has some respect for Clinton, his character came across as no more realistic than her portrayal of Kennedy or Yeltsin.

When Clee describes the events leading up to he branch points, her prose takes on a laundry list feel. She simply explains what happened in an outline form, much of which resembles our own timeline, especially the events surrounding the Cuban Missle Crisis and the August Uprising in Moscow. Her middle branch point, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, is so far fetched, it completely disrupts any suspension of disbelief the reader may have accorded the book.

Branch Point has several flaws. In my opinion, the biggest is that Mona Clee was unable to live up to the potential her idea initially had.

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