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I like big books.

The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 2

The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 2: They Rule - Jonathan Hickman Still brilliantly written, but loses a little of its focus. This volume is awkwardly divided with the first half devoted to developing an alternate background to the traditional narrative of the Cold War and the power struggle behind the scenes between the Projects group and a sort-of Illuminati cabal that controls the world and a second half delving into the shattered mind of J. Robert Oppenheimer. While politically interesting, the conflict in the first half is resolved abruptly and quickly without any significant impact on the program or any particular advancement of the general storyline begun in volume one. I think this volume is all about consolidation for Hickman as funding sources and political sanctioning for the Project's main undertaking (Groves's paranoid quest for human galactic dominance as "defensive measures") are worked out and loose ends tied up so that the reader won't have nagging logistical questions down the line. We are again graced with another giant of historical science, again in brilliantly re-imagined context, as Yuri Gagarin and Laika join the cast.

They Rule. is much more action-oriented than its predecessor, with gleeful sprees of carnage, death and destruction as the world "sorts itself out" through the bulk of the pages in the volume. Our beloved crew of intellects turn ruthless commando in an absurdly comic, but still enjoyable war between the captains of industry, finance and politics and the giants of science. If this image of Einstein and Feynman fighting FDR-AI controlled robots doesn't grab you and make your inner-geek swoon, then you have no soul and this book is not for you.



The volume tidies up with the beginning of an arc exploring Oppenheimer's multiple personalities in a way reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine, giving physical geography to the map of the mind and allowing characters to explore the weirdness therein. The writing in this section is extremely intellectual and quotable and the faux-epigraph quotations quite live up to the familiar real ones that have stood the test of time. Hickman manages to reduce the meaning of the momentous developments in his plot to one-liners with all the skill of a haiku master in voices that mimic those of his historical figures believably.

I present to you some of my favorites, if you doubt the writing ability of Mr. Hickman:

"What man can serve two masters? Who would not be torn asunder by titans?"
"Who stands on a hill and declares they are king? Fools."
"The world has rules, created by those who consider themselves above them. So we became radicals, who accepted neither."

Unlike their usage in other works of fictions, these epigraphs actually do serve a useful and valid purpose framing the action and serving as exciting foreshadowing for things to come.

I understand the series is behind schedule, which is a shame. I hope Hickman and crew can maintain the quality of their narrative and that they refocus its direction in the next volume!