Luther Michael Brethren stands on the cusp of adulthood. Recently graduated from college, he’s working at a semiconductor plant while house-sitting for his parents. Michael plays guitar in a band called Lybyrty, and sells marijuana that he grows in a greenhouse on his parents land. While Michael is an impassioned guitarist and lover of music—not to mention a skillful cultivator of marijuana—it’s not these interests that consume him. Michael fervently opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons and will do anything in his power to end the nuclear era. When he and his friends, a group known as The Children of Atom, learn of an opportunity to create their own nuclear weapon, they seize it. They plan to detonate the weapon in an American city with no strategic or military importance. Their thinking is that the surprise of the nuclear attack and the lack of rationale for the location will remind all humanity of its vulnerability and force governments to disarm their nuclear weapons. Atom describes the measures the group is willing to take to save humanity from the nuclear threat.
Atom serves as a warning of the dangers of nuclear weapons. Sutcliffe’s characters spend a good portion of their time denouncing nuclear policy and ranting about humanity’s worship of Atom, the god of nuclear proliferation. The speeches were unnaturally timed, intensely didactic, and delivered by unsympathetic characters. Because they are all wealthy, young, and male with extremely similar patterns of speech, I had trouble differentiating among them, so much so that I often forgot which was the protagonist. Sutcliffe writes with a clear purpose in mind, to the detriment of plot and character development. The improbable ending events—a sudden California storm in June, an accidental death paired with an untimely arrival, and a breakneck horseback ride through a storm—combined to make the culmination almost farcical. The concept of the book is interesting, but the delivery is lackluster.
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller