by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Souvenir Press, pp 272, £3 50
Arthur Clarke, where are you now that we need you? Twenty years ago this book would have been labelled science fiction, but most science fiction afficianados would have disowned it. Today, it is a technological doomwatch thriller; but that doesn’t make it any better.
The menace is an experiment to build a fusion reactor in orbit (Dynostar) because the day has come when man has discarded fission reactors as too dangerous, and found that fusion won’t work on Earth because of perturbations caused by the effect of gravity on the plasma beam in the fusion torus. The experiment turns out to be a menace because, we are told, of the realisation that if it works, even in a one second fusion pulse, one side effect will be to strip the ozone layer from one hemisphere of the Earth.
But is the idea plausible? How is the Dynostar energy to be transmitted to Earth’ We are never told; and of course if power could be sent conveniently down from orbit we’d need no other fusion reactor in space than the trusty old Sun. How is the reaction supposed to strip away ozone, incidentally overpowering the influence of that same Sun? Again we are never told.
The plot thickens when efforts to switch off Dynostar are hampered by a saboteur on the spacelab—a mad scientist, no less, who in his thirst for personal glory cannot bear to see the project closed. If the project had so simple a device as an emergency abort switch, there would be even less plot than there is—but presumably we are not meant to notice that.
The book is, actually, just bad enough to be funny, but not at £3.50.
John Gribbin - New Scientist - 30 Oct 1975