SYLVAIN NEUVEL
SFX|April 2021
The French-Canadian writer tells us why space is the place
Jonathan Wright

THERE ARE HOLES IN HUMAN HISTORY into which, if you’re careful, you can drop stories without causing discernible ripples in the timeline. It’s an approach taken by Sylvain Neuvel in his new novel, A History Of What Comes Next. It deals with the development of rocketry and begins in the ’40s, the decade when Nazi Germany launched V-2 rockets against London.

“It’s more a secret history than an alternate history,” he says, speaking from his home in Montreal. “It would be very hard to find real-life documents or facts that would contradict anything that happens.”

While the book has an SFF premise, much of its weirdness derives from the turbulent history of the mid-20th century. Take the trajectory of a figure such as Wernher von Braun (1912-77), latterly fêted as the chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the rocket developed to support NASA’s Apollo programme. In A History, we’re reminded of his wartime past as we meet von Braun, a central figure in the V-2’s development, trying to escape the oncoming Red Army in the final days of the second world war.

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