Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet (2006)

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart cover
One of those novels that simply cast a spell on me, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart is a fantasia on the moral complications of science. Three of the men involved in the development of the first nuclear bombs — J Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard — are transported from the moment of the first atomic test forward in time to March, 2003, where they have to come to terms with the world they created. As Abigail Nussbaum’s review explores, the great strength of the novel is its depth and generosity of characterisation:

Millet does a masterful job of maintaining a balance between the impossibly weird and the ordinary elements in her novel. It is all too often the case in surrealist fiction that characters are overwhelmed by the weirdness they encounter. They cease to be human because their responses to the impossible strain credulity. Millet never falls into this trap. Her characters, modern and historical, major and minor, sympathetic and villainous, are never less than entirely believable, and almost always likable.

Please email me with your top ten science fiction novels by women from the last ten years (2001-2010). All votes must be received by 23.59 on Sunday 5 December. Your own definition of science fiction applies.

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