THE GODEL OPERATION by James L. Cambias, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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THE GODEL OPERATION by James L. Cambias, Review

Alexander Wallace travels to the tenth millennium.
I have to respect any science fiction author with the sheer chutzpah to set a story thousands of years in the future, while still retaining some clear link to the universe we know. There’s simply so much that can change; would a farmer from Mesopotamia in the time of Gilgamesh recognize anything about New York? Here, we will be discussing one such book, The Godel Operation by James L. Cambias, released in May 2021 by Baen Book.

The Godel Operation is doubtlessly space opera, with what TvTropes describes as “an Earth-sized story lifted onto the galactic scale,” albeit with one caveat: the story is restricted to the Solar System. In any case, Cambias makes his solar system feel very alive, with wildly different cultures on different planets and moons. If you squint at it, you could even argue it’s a peculiar reconstruction of old-school planetary romances, where the solar system that we can see in our skies is host to adventure.

Plotwise, Cambias reminds me quite strongly of Timothy Zahn. The Godel Operation is something of a heist story dealing with the underworld of the solar system. To the mathematicians here, I am happy to inform you that the great logician in the title has a small but pivotal role, in a sense, in driving the plot forward.

Cambias made an inspired choice when he decided on this book’s narrator: an artificial intelligence that usually inhabits an insect-like body much smaller than a human being. Like Martha Wells’ famed Murderbot, this character is more than a little bemused at common human foibles while still trying to find something to appreciate in them. Any fans of that series will be well-served here.

Another thing Cambias does well in this book is to inculcate a sense of sheer temporal vastness, a strong awareness of the millennia that have passed between the world we know now and the world that his characters know. To describe how, exactly, would be too many spoilers, but he knows very well how to create aspects of his world that feel so utterly alien and yet all made by human beings (or things made by human beings).

The Godel Operation is an odd book, but I mean that in the best way possible. It is far-future space opera that is astronomically contained, and written with a lightning bolt. For those of you looking for another space opera book, you could do worse than give Cambias’ novel a shot.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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