Interesting Golden Age science fiction tale of a meltdown at a nuclear reactor. Much of the science didn't turn out like del Rey envisioned---the reactors are for making "super-heavy isotopes" for medicinal uses, with power as a secondary output, and the main way to remove "radioactives" from injured workers is curare treatment.
But it's interesting to see what he got right---such as a Chernobyl-style cleanup attempt, and several aspects of how the nuclear plant operates---as del Rey first wrote this three years before Hiroshima, and then revised it the year the first civilian nuclear power plant entered operation (1956). He did a lot with the information he had on hand---that is to say, this is surprisingly accurate speculation---and this book has a fascinating time capsule feel to it, and is prophetic to some degree. There's also a sympathetic portrayal of a Japanese scientist, and again, it was written in 1942.
That said, it's not quite the thriller the back cover makes it out to be; the characters are often flat and lifeless, and there's too many named-and-numbered redshirts who show up only once or twice; and the narrative sags at the end under progressive amounts of technobabble and the erosion of focus. It's a passable novel that might interest hardcore science fiction readers and Golden Age junkies, but it has some big flaws. It was okay: a good read that started off great, but did not end as a standout.
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It is true that this edition does not show paragraph breaks clearly. However, among the various Kindle books I have read, defects such as two words joined together, inappropriate hyphens in mid-line, and bad scanner/text recognition are fairly common. Kindle editions, for whatever reason, simply do not come up to the high standard of printed editions.
This novel itself is a fine, tense, exciting read from the classic age of Science Fiction. It projects an entire future reality (which is now an alternate reality) in which atomic power is used far more than it is today. Since, at one time, atomic bombs were considered for creating (really large) ditches and similar construction projects, this alternate future no doubt seemed possible at the time the novel was written.
Also, at the time this was written, Caucasians (except foreign scientists) were the only ones who would be found working in such an installation, except perhaps on the custodial staff. Note that the women are restricted to Nursing and Office Work (well, Switchboard, at least): all the important jobs were reserved for the men. The rest of the women are at home, taking care of the kids. Welcome to the world of the traditional values of the 50's!
The Japanese character does speak English imperfectly. This is mostly shown by word and word order choice. It is very hard to say whether it is based on a stereotype or whether the author based it on someone he knew. At any rate, referring to it as "sing-song" is probably not a good idea, since "sing-song" is something one hears, not something one reads.
Speaking a foreign language perfectly is very difficult. Most people who speak a foreign language do so with an accent.Read more ›
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The Kindle version of this book is poorly formatted with no paragraph breaks or indents. Not that it's really worth a read anymore.
I read this as a kid and remember liking it. I have grown up since then. It not so much a book to read now as entertainment, however it demonstrates the American mid-century attitude towards the environment, atomic power and minorities unintentionally.
A nuclear disaster is averted by dumping all the waste into rivers and swamps. Everyone is Caucasian except for the "little Japanese" physicist who speaks in comic book sing song. The book is filled with the hopes and dreams of a true "atomic" fuel and medicine. This was written back in the days when engineers and the military thought it might be possible to fuel planes with nuclear reactors.
In a post-Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima world this book stands out as an example of where culture was more than sixty years ago. If that interests you then it might be worth it. If not, take a pass.
`Nerves' (1956, 153 pp.), a novel about an accident at a nuclear power plant, was expanded from a story Lester del Rey first published in 1942. This paperback edition appeared in 1970 and features an arresting cover illustration by Dean Ellis.
The story takes place in the late 20th century in the medical clinic of the National Atomics Products plant in Kimberly, Missouri. There, the senior physician, Roger Ferrell, and his younger assistant, Jenkins, deal with the occasional case of radiation exposure and trauma suffered by the plant's `Atomjacks'. Things are not looking up for the atomic products industry; a serious accident at a Croton, New York plant has turned public opinion against locating the plants close to inhabited areas. And even as the National Atomics Products plant prepares for a visit by an oversight committee, an employee is injured in an accident, further tarnishing the public perception of nuclear power and its promotion as a safe source of energy.
In an effort to curry favor with an influential politician on the oversight committee, Palmer, the plant's manager, orders intensive production of something called `Isotope 713', the idea being to use this isotope to irradiate cotton fields in the South and eliminate boll weevils (!) However, the press for increased synthesis of Isotope 713 strains the plant's capacity, and before too long something called `Isotope-R' gets produced as a dangerous byproduct. Isotope-R is highly reactive, and within moments it has destroyed one of the plant's reactors (`converters').Read more ›