Spies, espionage, history and… Einstein… all these elements make for a compelling read, not to be missed.
At One Giant Read, we’re always looking for ways to blend literature and science, so we couldn’t have been happier to discover Richard D. Handy’s The Reich Device, a novel which presents an intriguing alternative history and centralises science as vastly impactful to this history.
The story opens in 1933 and sees Professor Gustav Mayer making a monumental scientific discovery which could change the course of science all over the world, but there’s a problem… he’s made the discovery in the midst of the rising menace of the newly formed SS is Germany.
These are dangerous times and nobody is safe, not even the formidable Albert Einstein who makes an appearance as Mayer’s friend and colleague. This for me was a particular strength of the novel, not only did Einstein’s appearance offer an alternative insight into an intensely private man, but also highlighted the genius behind scientific developments which have a global impact. Added to this and woven throughout the novel was the overwhelming awareness of exactly what the government of the Third Reich meant for Germany and just why science could be a dangerous pursuit in a country under scrutiny.
In a novel where science was a central device which drove the plot, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the scientific elements were not overwhelming and that ‘science’ as a wider concept is used to demonstrate just the precarious times Germany was experiencing during the pre-war period and how dangerous high intellect and speaking out could be at that time.
The plot is fast paced, there are spies, assassins, SS officers and scientists aplenty and the action is high octane leading to a thrilling conclusion. The novel is wonderfully crafted, emotional, poignant and at times harrowing – some scenes are not for the faint of heart – and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat until the very end. This novel is a stellar example of the ways in which the disciplines of science and literature can work collaboratively to create a gripping narrative which blurs boundaries between art and science and is thoroughly recommended reading.
The Reich Device was published in 2015 by Matador Books.