THE ACCIDENT by Dexter Masters
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If you can accept the fact that nuclear physics can be humanized and dramatized and made absorbingly interesting and philosophically challenging and emotionally moving, then you will be ready for this extraordinary book. Some years ago a novel entitled Live With Lightning by Mitchell Wilson (1949) attempted this- but the attempt was blurred in the romantic aspects of the story and the angry injection of material conflicts. The Accident, on the other hand, gives only secondary emphasis to the relations of its young physicist, Louis Saxl, to those outside the ring of his associates at Los Alamos, and the importance of what was happening there. And somehow, the thinking of those men, from the military top brass to the common soldier, from the leading physicists to the medical men and nurses at the hospital, comes clear. One reads with fascinated concentration the discussions pro and con- often incomprehensible to the layman- but always sparked by the inner struggles for rationalization, justification, aspiration, Some of the figures remain vehicles for their arguments; others come across as personalities. And increasingly, despite the multiplicity of scientific and medical details that wrap him round after ""the accident"", Louis is a whole person, a scientist first, last and always, and a lover on the periphery.. In flashbacks one gets the story of his life, sometimes through bits remembered by his family; more often through Theresa, the girl who waited seven years to be his wife. And there are other points at which the story is told in parallel terms:- what happened, in the brief and starved interludes of his romance; what happened when he emerged from the coccoon of student life to the awareness of relative importance in the opportunities that confronted him. Only the Spanish War episode seems shadowy, unreal -- perhaps it was to Louis. And the injection of the threat of Congressional investigation strikes a jagged note, never quite integrated with the rest. This is quibbling, perhaps, but serves only to highlight the almost wholly sustained impact of the total book. ust how it will be received is a question. Word of mouth enthusiasm should start and eep people reading and talking about it.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1955
Publisher: Knopf