Going Nuclear

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Going Nuclear is a story about one young man’s experiences during the turbulent 1960s. Arthur Weiss just lost his brother in the Vietnam War and his high-ranking military father wants him to take his brother’s place to “see this war through to victory.” Arthur is not about to throw his education away for a futile war. While working on his doctorate, Arthur participates in a college protest, which leads him to a brief encounter with a student who is found dead the next day. When Arthur’s chemistry skills are needed for a project to end the war, he is unaware that his services will play right into the hands of a clandestine operation whose devastating effects has the potential of perpetuating conflict for years to come.

Stephen Hart’s riveting debut novel is replete with political and religious themes befitting that time period. Written in third person narrative, Hart spins a story that is more real than fiction. Although Arthur’s character is key, Hart creates a bit of an allegorical touch to this young man’s existence. Arthur, in many respects, represents the cerebral revolution of many young adults of the 60s who tried to wrap their heads around the ethics of the Vietnam War — not only the longest war in U.S. history, but also the only war presented in gory black-and-white detail on the T.V. screens in the living rooms of virtually every American. Hart’s use of thematic patterning of “times are changing” is heavily laced throughout Arthur’s experiences. Offering both sides of the picture, Hart incorporates dialogue that isn’t mere info dumping. Hart aptly contrasts conservative concepts, primarily in Arthur’s father and the FBI, with the liberal dispositions of Arthur and many of his friends. Issues cover racial profiling, the efficacy of religion, and general mistrust of politicians and the American government.

But Hart’s thematic development does not stop there. With the rise of liberal and free thinkers of the 60s come a host of hippies who are looked upon by the average conservative (mainly white) family as those who are breaking away from traditional American values. Though Hart never uses the word, it is very clear that the conservatives are dealing with xenophobia since they have a difficult time dealing with these radicals with their long hair and free love. Hart’s narrative also offers a real picture of the FBI and CIA’s efforts to control a generation of noncompliant people through spying and phone tapping – not much different than what actually occurred during that era.

Hart also takes advantage of the mass confusion between who’s right and who’s not by employing a handful of flawed characters, including Arthur, to create red herrings. Their outward appearance reflects overall good people, until Hart takes readers behind the scenes to their deceitful game playing. That being said, it is difficult to identify exactly who are the true culprits in Hart’s plot until close to the end. To add more of a storyline twist, Hart’s use of frequent scene changes – mostly between things happening within Arthur’s life and FBI investigations – keeps his narrative fresh and moving, especially since there are no hints of any cliches whatsoever.

Hart’s debut thriller is captivating, as well as thought provoking since much of the conservative and liberal notions back then are unfortunately relevant today. Undoubtedly a fantastic read, Going Nuclear is earmarked to be a best seller.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 301 pages
Publisher Aventine Press
Publish Date 29-Nov-2011
ISBN 9781593306885
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue December 2014
Category Mystery, Crime, Thriller


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