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The Trigger Hardcover – December 1, 1999

45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The early 21st century ushers in a revolution in unified field theory, and free-thinking physicist Jeffrey Horton and his team are pushing the cutting edge. Sequestered on a maximum-security research campus, the scientists are testing "Baby," a device they hope will create "a laser for gravity," a tractor beam. But during an early run, every gun in the area (and even a secret stash of fireworks) simultaneously explodes. Follow-up tests soon prove their device was responsible--that it can in fact neutralize every conventional gun, bomb, and explosive--and that's when Baby becomes the "Trigger."

This speculative novel by sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke and genre workman Michael Kube-McDowell follows the vast sea changes such an invention would bring, reading as part thriller, part social tract. Horton and his Trigger follow a course not unlike that of Einstein and the A-bomb, but ratcheted up by an order of magnitude--idealistic scientists, overwhelmed politicians, rabid lobbyists, and entrenched generals must deal with the device's deployment and consequences, both political and social, in a gun-rich, gun-dependent culture. A well-researched, plausible plot line keeps The Trigger not just readable but downright engrossing, despite its sometimes distracting lack of subtlety. All in all, a worthwhile, entertaining meditation on how technological progress always proves as unpredictable as it is inevitable. --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

One of the grand old men of SF has teamed up with Kube-McDowell (Tyrant's Test, etc.) to imagine a near-future in which all traditional weapons that use gunpowder are rendered obsolete. Out of the blue, young physicist Jeffrey Horton has been chosen to join Nobelist Karl Brohier at a laboratory named Terabyte. While Horton pursues the "stimulated emission of gravitons," a number of detonations rock the lab one day. Is this yet another terrorist attack in an America racked by violence? But it's gun clips and fireworks that exploded when Horton activated his experimental machine. After some experimentation, the lab team realizes that the device, shortly named the Trigger, causes virtually every traditional explosive within range to self-destruct. What follows is a detailed exploration of the effects of the Trigger on domestic America. Should it be made public? Who should be told first: the army, the president, the international community? To prevent being silenced by those whose power may be threatened, Brohier and Horton contact Grover Wilman, an iconoclastic U.S. senator with a strong antigun record. Wilman in turn leads them to President Mark Breland, and the full complexity of negotiating among the many factions invested in guns begins. Clarke and Kube-McDowell work through the pro and con arguments over the possession of guns and other gunpowder-based weapons, with care and research evident in every debate as they skillfully assess the tricky territory between individualism and collective trust. The authors are savvy enough never to choose easy answers, and though this political SF thriller occasionally slows down to depict detailed governmental negotiations and private deliberations, the unpredictable effects of the Trigger lend the familiar issue of gun control new urgency and excitement. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra; First Edition edition (December 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553104586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553104585
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,942,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Taed Wynnell on December 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
[As someone who does not judge a book by the back of its dustjacket, this review has no spoilers whatsoever.]
I've been a devoted reader of Michael Kube-McDowell since his first book, _Emprise_, which is on my personal top 10 list, having read it 3 or 4 times now.
_The Trigger_ aspires to be another _Emprise_. In fact, when I first started reading _The Trigger_, I was quite excited since it seemed to be telling the story of the prolog to _Emprise_, wherein an "antidote" for nuclear reactions is discovered, which throws the world into chaos following the political and energy ramifications.
Unfortunately, _The Trigger_ is not as far-reaching, and I think it could have explored its premise much more than it did. Mind you, it follows the plot on a larger scale more than most novels, which is one of the things that I like about it.
It is an addicting read, and, like the previous Amazone reviewer, I "could not put it down". However, I also felt the ending was weak and uninspired, not following the premise far enough.
As far as the collaboration with Clarke goes, I have to admit that I didn't see any "Clarke" in this book. So, if you're an Arthur C. Clarke fan, I can't say you should read it on that basis alone.
In summary, I recommend _The Trigger_. But if you like it even a little, I suggest you try to track down some of Kube-McDowell's better books, such as _Emprise_, or _Alternities_.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Sahara on January 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For those who enjoy stretching their knowledge of science to the limits, here's some serious mind expansion from the all time SF guru, Arthur C. Clarke. "Trigger" is built around wave physics and how much more can happen in that field - someday, sometime.
The non-scientifically inclined reader will also enjoy the book's extensive examination of the issues around gun control and ownership - the prime target of the authors. Using the Columbine High shootings as a case in point, they repeatedly engage with the many arguments put forward by proponents of the 2nd Amendment to prevent arms control initiatives.
But the scientific jewels hidden along the way are what make this a real delight. First, there is the Trigger - a wave-emitting device that automatically detonates any kind of explosive material, rendering any conventional arms and munitions more dangerous to the user than to their intended victims. The resulting reversion of security forces to pre-gunpowder weapons such as crossbows and maces may sound amusing, but certainly worth more than a passing thought.
Then comes the intellectual high point of the book - the concept that everything can be defined in terms of energy and information. This is totally mind blowing - if you take the concept of zooming in and out for more or less detail on a subject and couple it with the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle, that's what the guru is postulating. To quote " Information organizes and differentiates energy". The kick is in the converse - if you can remove information from a subject, you destabilize it - it ceases to exist! From this exquisitely neat hypothesis arises the Jammer - the antithesis of the Trigger - instead of blowing up arms and ammunition, it simply makes them cease to exist!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This review was going to be "only" four stars, but I was only at page 400 at that point. What an ending. One of the rare wonderful times I have seriously gotten chills down my spine from reading a book. (And some of the other times have been with Clarke as well!)
I suspect Mr. Kube-McDowell took the majority of the writing on this one, based on recent collaborations of Clarke's with Baxter and McQuay, but this novel is certainly worthy of the Clarke seal of approval.
You can get the plot preview from other reviews, so let me just say that the preachiness might get to some people, and once in a while it made my eyes roll as well, but in the end I think it's deceptively well-balanced. It never forgets the other side, although most of the enemy characters are near-cartoonish villains. But I can seriously overlook it! (Also, two of the main characters of the beginning seem to disappear about 2/3 through.)
The style is similar to recent books by Gregory Benford: scientist makes schocking discovery...social issues arise...scientist gets personally involved. Of course, I know nothing of Benford's gun-control stance.
Tone down the preachiness just a tad, and this could make a good movie. This book begs to be optioned for a screenplay.
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24 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Matthew P Moore on December 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
... a fantasy where techo-magic can uninvent firearms and, when the Great and the Good wave that wand, people decide to love each other and study war no more. The gun controllers get all the good lines and the Other Side is composed of scary, evil leaders and ordinary gun owners who are their useful idiots. The book is set in the near future with electronic technologies that are somewhat plausible, but without the personality alteration technology that would be needed to actually make it work.
To review, researchers accidentally discover a device which can detonate explosives and ammunition remotely (the Trigger). Later on, they discover that this is only one aspect of a more powerful technology that allows them to change the chemical structure of matter from a distance and with precision.
The immediate application that they seize on is to disable firearms and explosives. Much ink is expended on the political fallout from this, and how it will make the world a better place. What is glaring to me is what is missed: these supposedly smart people don't notice that firearms and explosives can still work with minor redesign. They focus on the more capable technology only as a way to uninvent the gun even more thoroughly (the Jammer) - no one notices that it makes weapons possible that are far more deadly than guns. For example, if you can turn nitrocellulose back into inert cotton by pointing a ray emitter at it, why can't you turn all the proteins in a man's body back into individual amino acids? Answer, you can, and the victim would collapse instantly into a puddle of goo. This occurs to none of the characters. Instead, they reinvent Medeival weaponcraft - the crossbow and the quarterstaff - but somehow forget about the sword, the mace, and the halbard.
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