Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Tor; New Ed edition (19 Aug 2005)
I'm not sure how long this has been sitting patiently waiting for me to read it, but the fact it's signed indicates that I probably picked it up at the Write Fantastic event in Heffers in Cambridge not last autumn, but the one before.
This is not your talking squids and spaceships SF. Rather, it's three stories, running in parallel. In the present day, is Serena Freeman, a rather precociously young Cambridge Professor. A second storyline involves Nix Lafayette, a US Marine involved in the storming of Guam during the Pacific War. And further back yet, we have Heracles carrying out his labours.
The connection is that Freeman has invented a device that allows her to experience the thoughts of Lafayette as he undergoes the horrors of the fighting against the Enemy (it's noticeable that they're never referred to as the Japanese, even though that is what they are. No, these are the Enemy, totally implacable, totally alien, in a way that the Germans couldn't have been). And it's pretty horrifying combat - the author does not glamorise it at all. Somehow, Lafayette detects her presence, and somehow, he and she both parallel the labours of Heracles. In his case, defeating a bird may end up shooting a sniper down from the treetops. In her case, it's taking a polaroid of herself and a swan on Stourbridge Common. And for Heracles, well, it really is the original labour.
It doesn't help that the government - or at least the darker undercover side of it - recognises that the ability to see what happened at any point in history could be rather useful since, as was pointed out in an Asimov short story, the past starts now.
I'm now wishing I'd got round to reading this somewhat earlier because, though it's not the type of SF I normally go for, it's really rather good.