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Hogan, James P.
THE PROTEUS OPERATION
Jim Warren & Bob Larkin
Book= VG+ or better
My favorite book by James P. Hogan: The Proteus Operation. This is a "kitchen-sink" kind of novel that mixes all sorts of ideas or genres: World War II special operations, history of science, time travel, alternate worlds, a bit of SF history - and it works just fine. It'll have you cheering on the good guys, even as you wonder what surprise Hogan will pitch at you next. This easily makes my "top 20" list, and I'll be happy to sell as many nice copies as I run across.
When the novel opens, it is 1974: John F. Kennedy is president, and the United States is the last stronghold of freedom against the iron heel of Fascism that has subjugated Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. Only in North America and Australia does freedom survive, and their days are numbered before a series of encroachments will lead to an inevitable nuclear spasm. Captain Harry Ferracini and Sergeant Cassidy were Army Special Operations men, brought home early from their mission in occupied Europe. They had been collected for a special mission put together by the mysterious Winslade, who was usually involved when things got highly irregular. Winslade had been involved for decades, spiriting out people and documents from Europe, which had quickly fallen after the Nazis nuked Russia in 1942. He had discovered the true reason for the Nazi's start-and-stop technological advancements: since 1925 they had been secretly helped and supplied by agents from the year 2125 - from a world where World War II never happened, and the last few of the rich and privileged were attempting to create a world more to their liking. Among the things smuggled out by Winslade were plans for the time-gate, and the Americans had built their own - with the intent of sending a mission back to 1939 for their own attempt at re-shaping history.
Once in 1939, the team quickly splits in 2 to achieve its objectives: the techs and special ops men stayed in New York to assemble a "return-gate" in 1939 so they could have 2-way travel (in an interesting bit of temporal self-determination, they had already received a confirmation signal from 1939 before sending the team); Winslade with the political and economic experts headed for England, to try and change the political situation before the inevitable war broke out. They meet with Winston Churchill, bringing high-tech gadgets and photos as proof of their authenticity. The gate-team comes to some realizations as they run into problems with assembly: this may be a "one-way" mission, since none of them have any strong ties with the world they left, and all of the Special Ops men have overseas/undercover experience - near Leipzig, Germany. Knowing Winslade, this can't be coincidence.
At first they think that their mission must be hopeless - Europe is blind to the Nazi threat, and America is lost in economic depression and head-in-the-sand isolationism. They form attachments in town, and respsond with a commando-style raid when their friends are put-upon by a local crime lord. It is also through these friends that they are able to contact Albert Einstein, who is now seen as a possible way to approach President Roosevelt, and might supply some technical insight as to what is causing problems with the return-gate. War breaks out, and Winslade's planning for every possibility comes into play: the Special Ops team has to travel to Europe in the midst of war, break into a heavily guarded munitions plant, and attempt to shut down the German's time-gate by themselves. Winslade has picked the best - able commandos with a will to succeed, and ability to improvise. But this task will try them to their limits.
There is so much going on in this book that it's hard to summarize, but it never lags. Hogan has done his homework and everything rings true. And there are little details that will be picked up on by those with a background in the history of science and the development of the A-bomb, or of SF: one element of the plot hinges on details of the (then unpublished) first SF story by Isaac Asimov(!)
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