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In War Times

(Dance Family #1)

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  301 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Sam Dance is a young enlisted soldier in 1941 when his older brother Keenan is killed at Pearl Harbor. Afterwards, Sam promises that he will do anything he can to stop the war.
During his training, Sam begins to show that he has a knack for science and engineering, and he is plucked from the daily grunt work of twenty-mile marches by his superiors to study subjects like co
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by Tor Books
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3.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  301 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Aug 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
I wish I could get back the week of my life I spent trying to read this horrible book. I'd give it negative stars if I could.

I love science fiction, but this is one of the most poorly-written books I've ever read. Perhaps I wouldn't be so harsh if I hadn't read such glowing reviews before picking it up. Errors in history, errors in music theory, errors in her German--and just think of the technical errors that I don't know enough to pick up on.

It seems to me she's come up with a great idea, and
Mar 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh dear!

You cannot drive from Wiltshire to Kent in half an hour.

Nobody would have driven a Mini around London in 1944 because it wasn't invented until 1959.

Luftwaffe strafing raids on southern England in 1944? I don't think so.

Goonan seems to have generally confused the scale of the 1944 Germany bombing offensive with that of 1940/41.

The idea of a lone German bomber inflicting significant damage to a Flight of Spitfires in 1944 over southern England is stretching credulity.

I don't think Wiltshir
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Original review by John posted at Layers of Thought.

An excellent read – a mashup of alternative realities, particle physics, experimental jazz music, the Second World War and science fiction. How could you not like that combination?

About: It’s 1941 and Sam Dance is a an intelligent but uncoordinated jazz lover who has poor eyesight. He struggles to be accepted by the US army, but finally manages to wangle his way in, and then finds himself plucked from regular training and sent on a series of es
Nov 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This is, by many lights, a brilliant book. It did, after all, win the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2008).

In many respects this is a throwback to the early days of Science Fiction when a confluence of mind-expanding technology and cutting edge science could evoke a sense of wonder despite a lack of believable characters, coherent plot, or situational continuity. Except, in this case, the "science" is essentially mystical techno-babble.

This is "Literary" Scienc
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
The book broke my heart, but also rang with hope. Goonan's interview in Locus actually touched on a lot of what I got out of this tale, about hope and consciousness and humanity and the arts and sciences. The characters were real in a way that didn't need big, flashy action to reveal who they were. And the events of the story truly painted a strikingly vivid picture of the world as it used to be. And more frightening, it paints a vivid message about what the world is now.[return][return]It's a s ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Kathleen Ann Goonan is one of the science fiction writers I have been meaning to read for some time. I started with In War Times, probably because of the World War 2 setting. The book involves the development of a never fully explained technology that allows its users to manipulate time. It is designed as a means of dealing with Hitler, is developed in a race against Hitler and eventually comes to have an impact on the Cold War.

With its focus on the impact of technology on history, the book read
Kim Mallady
Dec 19, 2007 rated it liked it
I first looked at this book because I had read in some forums that people think it could win this year's Hugo Award. The description on Amazon was intriguing and I was excited to read the book. But it was definitely a let down. This is a story about a machine that modifies human DNA to affect how we perceive and move through time and to make us more empathetic and less likely to fight. Unfortunately, in the first half of this book the machine does nothing. The first half of the book is set in WW ...more
Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it
So this was my first foray into the "speculative fiction" side of sci fi. You know, what if the Japanese had won the war, how would the world have been different if blah blah blah hadn't been assassinated, etc. I found this author via the Nebula showcase book for 2009.

And I'm just not sure.

The book was a whole lot of nothing happens except what actually happened in the war, a little bit of "well what does this do?" and a lot of "huh?" at the end, before wrapping things up in two pages of expos
E. Sabin
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In War Times is absolutely brilliant. It weaves together jazz, quantum physics, and DNA in a novel that immerses the reader first in the ambience of an American army camp in England during World War II, later in the Cold War, the Kennedy assassination, and what life might be like in alternate timelines. During the first part of the book I felt I was right there with protagonist Sam Dance and his buddy Wink as they experienced the camaraderie that develops in an army unit and all the horrors and ...more
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Goonan's father was a World War II vet who kept meticulous diaries, and scattered throughout the book are excerpts from his writing. They're well-written, sharply observed, and offer an unusual wartime perspective. I'm glad I read them.

The rest of the book . . . not so much. If you share Goonan's obsession with jazz or hero worship of JFK, maybe you'll like it more than I did.
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Interesting idea but I had to force myself to finish the book as it was too long. I just was bored with the idea by the end.
May 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sci-fi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Until the very end it did not become clear. It turns out the book was based on real journals. The author's idea, which was what seemed so interesting and made me pick up the book, was just barely fitted over a war-time jazz journal that did not interest me in the least.

I don't like jazz, I don't like pure war history, so I didn't like the book. Too bad.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
i stopped at page 898 of 1076, I could not go on.

I have no idea what is happening in this book.

Recommended by a guy I know.
Note to self: do not take book recommendations from Sean
David Lum
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Too much inevitability in the plot to for me to really like it. But good individual scenes of the mid century.
Peter Goodman

“In War Times: an alternate-universe novel of a different present,” by Kathleen Ann Goonan (Tor, 2007). This book is in fact two books. The first, announced in an afterword, is a barely fictionalized account of the latter stages of World War as lived by a young soldier, a highly accomplished engineer, mostly following the combat forces through western Europe and into Germany. Some of it was written by, and much of it is based on, the experiences of Goonan’s father, in developing the top-secret M
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A Splendid Novel of Ideas and Action Set in an Alternate Recent Past

“In War Times” is a great novel of ideas and action, showing why contemporary science fiction may be the most important literary genre of our time, grappling with greater clarity of thought and literary skill, the very nature of human existence, than what one usually discerns from so-called literary mainstream fiction. Kathleen Ann Goonan’s elegantly sparse prose captures vividly the vicissitudes of love, war, peace, and indeed
Caroline Herbert
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a combination WWII memoir and sci fi thriller focused on an experimental device that can manipulate time and change the past and future. The story begins on Dec 6, 1941, when a mysterious European scientist gives soldier/engineer Sam Dance plans for the device, hoping that he can create it and steer humankind's future away from war. After that opening straight from a spy thriller, the first half of the book mostly deals with Sam's experiences during WWII, in England and in occupied Germa ...more
John Owen
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book, full of wonderful writing, with an unsettling undercurrent of lost opportunities and hopes. Recounting the life of one Sam Dance, a bright, well-educated kid who joins up at the start of WW2, and is allocated to technical work because of his education. During his training he encounters a mysterious older woman, who seduces him, then leaves him with a set of plans for a mysterious device that he spends the next forty years alternately building and running away from. Fo ...more
Roger Bailey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christopher McKitterick
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I had difficutly with all the emphasis on jazz early in the novel. I nearly put the book down, because I'm not much of a jazz fan. But the promise of the rest of the book kept me going through the epic story that was to come, and all that jazz plays a part in forming the over-arching metaphor of the story.

The real payoffs of the novel are two-fold: First, witnessing the unfolding of events set up early in the book over several decades; and second, the family story. Thus, much of the
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I usually don't read SF but I was stretching myself from a reading list. I found this book interested me because it seems to be a slash of alternative history and SF. Starting with WWII and the Dance Family, the novel follows Sam Dance through the War and his entangling with spies who promise him a better future for the world if he distributes a device around the world. Over time, and with his wife Bette and his children, he learns that his war buddy Wink is in a better world overall. However, w ...more
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
a highly unusual foray, set in 1941-1980, during which the American government acquires technology that through the application of biochemistry, complexity theory, game theory, and quantum computing strives to create and manage alternate timelines. the changing landscape takes us through the creation of bebop to the ending of WW2 to a revisit of the Kennedy assassination, and gradually creates a chaotic set of lightly-managed futures in which some people move across the world into differing When ...more
Mark Cheathem
Oct 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Goonan's writing is usually good. There are times when her descriptions put you in a scene viscerally. There are times, though, when I would have like a bit more detail to flesh out certain parts of the plot. The music descriptions drag on a bit and become repetitive. The climactic confrontation at the end of the book is a bit naive regarding the historical figure who is saved--this individual was hardly the idealist that Goonan portrays.

One more note: If you know a little bit of something about
Dianne O'Connell
Jun 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Goonan's science fiction/historical novel -- especially since I read most of it while attending a conference in Washington D.C. (where the last part of the story takes place).

Goonan provides a glimpse of what our country could be, or could have been, in a alternate-reality, a reality made possible with just a few molecular biological and historical adjustments between World War II and the Kennedy Assassination Attempt.

The jazz analogies keep the story hopping -- and the
Samuel Lubell
Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
This is a fascinating book that mixes jazz with parallel timeline physics. Sam Dance, a jazz-loving soldier in WWII meets professor Handtz who gives him plans for a device she says will end war. He meets her a couple of times in their shared history, getting more advanced versions of the device and slowly realizes that it is affecting time. He is on a timeline where Kennedy was assassinated causing the deepening of the cold war. But Handtz and Dance's friend and fellow jazz player Wink are on a ...more
Frank Reiter
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
I had the feeling this book might turn out to be brilliant, but it wasn't enough fun to read for me to hang in there and find out. Particularly boring was the amount that of no doubt carefully researched jazz music trivia. A jazz enthusiast might quit enjoy it, but I groaned every time a character entered a club and there was another page a out which musician was playing what song on what instrument.

Give it a go if you know enough about jazz to appreciate such details, else give it a pass.
Mark Watkins
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mixes jazz, physics, world war II, espionage into a wonderful stew of alternate history. If the names Jimmie Lunceford, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie (oh come on you have to have heard of Dizzy!), and Thelonious Monk don't mean anything to you, read this book. And if you aren't then seized with a desire to go listen to some jazz, well then, there's not much hope for you. Check out this Spotify playlist of Jazz mentioned in the book:

Goonan always does Hawaii well, also (r
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