The Apollo Quartet by Ian Sales is a collection of short stories each set in their own unique timeline, but tied together by the technology of the Apollo program (much like the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy is tied together by ice cream). I have already read and reviewed the first two stories in the series (“Adrift on the Sea of Rains” and “The Eye with Which the Universe Beholds Itself“) so now I am going to tackle the next entry, “Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above“.
“Great Ocean” is an alternate history tale like the first two Apollo Quartet stories, but it does not feature any alien space bats like parallel dimensions or alien technology. Some readers out there might enjoy this story more because of this fact, but I personally have never shied away from some implausibility (in fact the first alternate history book I ever read featured aliens invading during World War II). If people refused to consume science fiction because it didn’t make sense, then none of us would be here right now.
There are two separate tales in “Great Ocean”. One is told from the perspective of Jerrie Cobb of the little known Mercury 13 group of female astronaut candidates, who in this timeline are given a shot at space after the Korean War escalates forcing all of the men to fight at the front instead of reaching for the stars. The other is told from the perspective of John McIntyre who is commanding the bathyscaphe Trieste II on a mission down the Puerto Rico Trench to recover a valuable piece of intelligence that could change the fate of the world. Although separate universes from each other (and our own) there are clues connecting them if you look closely.
“Great Ocean” is another excellent entry into the Apollo Quartet series. Ian Sales continues to show his skill as a writer by the way he manages to combine hard SF with literary fiction. A part of me wanted to know how exactly did the Korean War escalated to the point it did in Cobb’s universe without dragging the entire world into war. From the sound of it the fighting remained contained to the Korean Peninsula, but I could have misread something.
“Great Ocean” does not contain as many appendixes as other works in the Apollo Quartet. I for one found the information on the Mercury 13 remarkable and sought out more information on the subject. It war shameful how they were treated by the government, especially after they completed the same tests and had the same qualifications as the male astronauts. It really is one of those little known episodes of history that they don’t teach in school and will make you angry after you finally learn about it. Still it shows how science fiction, and in this case alternate history, can be used to create teachable moments.
Alright enough ranting about history, “Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above” is a great entry to the Apollo Quartet series and I highly recommend you check it out. In the meantime, I look forward to the final installment.