Meatball. First novel for physicist and expert science expositor Davies (nonfiction: Superforce, The Cosmic Blueprint, etc.), who chooses a first-class scientific puzzle (ball lightning) to write about, then mires the whole enterprise down in creaky, implausible superpower saber-rattling. Brilliant, disgruntled physicist Andrew Benson leaves America under a cloud of bitter personal rivalries and takes a post at an obscure northern British university. Meanwhile, mysterious, deadly, glowing, oddly-behaving spheres of energy appear in the skies: when they fall to earth, people die, electrical equipment is destroyed, defense installations are threatened. A man from the British Ministry of Defense tries to persuade Benson to help (nothing doing: his wife was killed while doing defense research). Soon, as a result of Western paranoia plus a suspicious Russian silence, NATO goes to full alert (have the Russians invented a terrible new weapon?). Benson, however, after witnessing a fireball himself, flings himself upon the problem; at his side are a curvaceous lady biochemist and an exiled Russian dissident physicist. Several tall coincidences later, our angry physicist knows the fireballs are caused by tiny particles of antimatter, possibly emanating from an antimatter asteroid about to hit the Earth (a collision would blow the planet to smithereens). Of course, nobody believes him, and nuclear war seems inevitable--when finally the Russians pick up the Presidential hotline to offer some belated explanations involving an alien spacecraft. The scientific conundrum aside: a disaster, from Davies' tin-eared American dialogue and overwrought prose to the improbable characters and hokey doings. Still, appreciators of Davies' lucid nonfiction may be curious.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1988
Page Count: -
Publisher: William Heinemann--dist. by David & Charles