Tuesday, 6 January 2009

More fiction with science that isn't science fiction

A while ago I covered a novel with science as its theme that (probably) wasn't science fiction. I have recently read another book in this genre, which I thought worth a mention.

Let's get the bad news out of the way first. Rad Decision by James Aach (see here at Amazon.co.uk and here at Amazon.com) has some big weaknesses. The title tells you nothing, the cover is awful, the book itself is all too obviously self-published (don't use underlining for emphasis, Jim), and it has a couple of real problems as a novel. There is absolutely zero identification with the protagonist. In fact, I don't know who the protagonist is. The person we identify with most (I don't know if this is intentional) is a Russian spy, who is anything but the hero. Otherwise we get lots of characters thrown at us who are often indistinguishable, and for whom we don't care at all.

Finally on the negative (sorry, Jim), the science is thrown in too heavy handedly. We have (rather scruffy) diagrams of the reactor system. Why? We have little lectures on what a millirad is and much too much detail on how the safety systems work. Yawn.

So you might wonder why I'm bothering to comment. Well, despite all this, the book has two big things going for it. One is that we talk a lot about nuclear power, and this is an insider view of the reality (including a scary dramatized description of the Chernobyl accident) - making it clear just how little of it is black and white. There are many shades of grey here. Secondly, the section of the book towards the end where things go wrong is genuinely tense and page-turning in its excitement. You might not care about the characters, but you want to know how things will turn out.

So this is a book that could do with a big professional edit - but I'd still recommend taking a look at it if you are interested in just what's going on (or, more accurately, when it was set - 20 years ago) in nuclear power stations, and would like that information in effective story form.


  1. Brian, thanks for taking the time to read the book and post a review. Further information, samples and additional reader comments can be found at my website: RadDecision.blogspot.com

    Oh...and since the 100+ US nuclear plants were all built more than 20 years ago, things are pretty much the same now as described in the book. (More security, of course.) Can't say I know the current situation in the UK, but I'd suspect it's similar.

    Again, thanks for reading Rad Decision. Jim Aach

  2. Thanks, Jim. I take your point about the plants being built 20 years ago - I just know that most businesses have changed quite a lot in 20 years, so guessed that what goes on in the nuclear industry may be different in some ways.

  3. Brian, you're right that it's a little different than it was 20 years ago on the business and management end. I didn't cover that much. The nuclear-specific safety decisions have already been made at that point, and the rest is similar to any other big business, I suspect. The changes on the nuclear side (minor design upgrades, some better risk management techniques) were beyond the level I was writing at, so I didn't include them.

    Thanks again for the review and including the links to Amazon. (I always have trouble adding links.) BTW, I get no royalties, which is another reason the book is available free online. There's also more than 25 reader reviews at the homepage comments (newest at the bottom). I only know two or three of the reviewers personally. A link to yours will be added shortly.