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The Proteus Operation

A science fiction novel by James P. Hogan

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Time Travel & UNalternate History

  • Sep 7, 2010
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What was your first impression?  This book is 25 years old.  I have known about it for a long time and although I have liked other books by Hogan I avoided this because I have an antipathy for time travel stories.  I don't believe time travel into the past is in any way possible so I stayed away.

Plot summary?  Hitler and the Japanese won WWII.  But they cheated!  They got nuclear weapons from the 21st century.  So it only makes sense to fight time machines with time machines so the past has to be fixed with a little help from Einstein.

What's the bottom line?  I decided to read this because of a review I read about it and I suppose it is unfortunate that I didn't check it out long ago.  I suppose to anyone under 30 World War II is ancient history but a lot of what happened then has determined the state of today's world.  This is the kind of book that makes history more interesting than most history books.

Of course everything said by the characters really comes form the author and I don't know how much Hogan studied Einstein but this seems very appropriate:

     Einstein shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not...I'm no longer young enough to know everything. I suppose I still have faith in people, despite it all," he said.
     "The older you get, the less you know?" Cassidy queried, raising an eyebrow.
     "Oh, but it's very true," Einstein assured him. "Except for scientists, of course. They never know anything at all." The other three exchanged puzzled looks. "It's true," Einstein told them. He sipped his tea and puffed a cloud of smoke from his pipe. "Most of the world still doesn't have the faintest notion of what science is. They think it is all madmen in white coats who want to take over the world with giant cabbages that eat people. But science isn't a thing at all -- like electricity or gravity or atoms. Those are subjects that might be studied in a scientific manner, but science is the process itself -- the process of studying them, or anything else, for that matter. It is a process for arriving at conclusions about what is probably true, and what is probably not. That's all. Its end product is simply reliable information. And the problem of knowing what to believe -- what is true and what is not -- is surely the most important problem that the human race has been grappling with for as long as it has existed. How many 'isms' and 'ologies' have been invented, all purporting to have the answer? And what were their answers worth?" He looked around. The others waited without interrupting.
     "Most systems set out to prove or rationalize something that they have made their minds up about already. But that's a hopeless way to proceed if what you really want to know is the truth.  Science doesn't do that. Its goal is to understand what's really out there -- what the world is really like -- and it accepts that whatever the reality is, it will be totally uninfluenced by what you or I might choose to think, or by how many others we might persuade to agree with us. The truth isn't impressed and doesn't care. That's why scientists don't pay much attention to debating skills. We leave those to lawyers and theologians. The eloquence and emotional appeal of the way ideas are presented has nothing to do with whether they're right or not."
     "Pretty obvious when you think about it," Cassidy commented. "Just plain common sense."
     "But that's all science is, Cassidy," Einstein said. "Formalized common sense. And since the purpose is to understand the world as it really is, and not to persuade anybody of anything in particular, there is no place for deception, especially unconscious self-deception. You can't get away with fooling yourself. Because all that will happen at the end of the process if you fail to detect your errors is that your aeroplane won't fly. The laws of Nature, you see, can't be deceived. So there is a strong underlying ethical principle woven into the very fabric of the scientific process -- something which is all too often overlooked. Wouldn't it be nice if the same were true in certain other fields of human activity?"
     Einstein put down the mug and sat back to spread his hands on the table. "So instead of  
trying to prop up the things that it would like to be true, science does the opposite -- it tries everything it can think of to bring its ideas down. That's what experiments are designed to do --  to prove theories false. And if the theory survives, it comes out so much the stronger. Hence, like an evolutionary process, which indeed it is, science is all the time testing itself and correcting itself. It thrives on questions, challenges, dissent, and criticism. The most ruthless scrutiny that it is subjected to is its own. And so it stays healthy and grows sturdier.
     "But how pathetic and fragile are the systems of thought that daren't expose their followers to any dissenting view or alternative explanation. Such systems are forced to ban what they have no answers for, and to suppress everything they can't compete with. Eventually, they wither, and they die. Eventually, the oppressors always end up being buried by their intended victims."

So this mostly unfolds as a nice hard science story even though time travel is totally unscientific.  LOL


Time Travel & UNalternate History Time Travel & UNalternate History

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The Proteus Operation is a science fiction novel which was written by James P. Hogan and published in 1985. Alternate history, time travel, and parallel universes form the basis of its plot, in which a group of military commandos, diplomats, and scientists travel back to 1939. They try to prevent the Axis Powers from winning World War II.



The Proteus Operation is based on the premise that current history is the result of multiple meddling with the timeline. Originally the First World War was a complete wake-up call for the human race, leading to a greater internationalism and a "Never Again" spirit towards war that would eventually wear away the differences between the various power-blocs until, by the 21st century, a global League of Nations oversees a planet totally at peace.

Unfortunately the people who feel they have lost out because of the social transformations enabled by decades of peace and co-operation (the aristocracy, corporate dynasties, etc.) come up with a plan to build a functional "Time Machine" and change history for their benefit. Their scheme is to go back as far as they can (the very early 1920s) and mentor the fledgling Nazi Party (which, on its own in the original history, simply faded out after the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch). They regard the Nazis as the perfect tool for destroying the Soviet Union and establishing an elitist tyranny to which they can re-locate and live the lives of luxury and entitlement they ...

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Author: James P. Hogan

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