ATOM by Stephen C. Sutcliffe


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In Sutcliffe’s debut novel, spoiled rich kids take nuclear Armageddon into their own hands.

Luther Michael Brethren loves his guitar. He’s in a band named Lybyrty and has speakers hanging from the trees in his absent parents’ backyard; he also has a bunch of friends who spend their time hang gliding, selling drugs and talking about the state of the world. The friends call themselves the Children of Atom and claim to have been warped by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, an event none of them were alive to witness. When two of their acquaintances plan a plutonium heist, the four Children of Atom want in. They plan to use the plutonium to destroy an unlikely target—the small town of Titan—to “dispel delusions of peace and security everywhere.” They go on to raid a drug kingpin’s house to steal cocaine, which they plan to sell in order to buy some plutonium; later, they decide to steal the plutonium as well. Remarkably, the friends know exactly how to pull off a heist of this nature—all are firearms experts, and no one has any remorse about killing, except Michael, who is haunted by the death of the kingpin’s mistress. The novel spirals into farce when the isotope winds up stored in Michael’s house. Soon after, a freak storm occurs, causing all sorts of chaos, including the impalement of one of Michael’s friends and the destruction of Michael’s greenhouse where he had been clandestinely growing marijuana; Michael’s parents, supposedly in Europe for five more months, pick that moment to return home. Michael soon leaves everything behind and splits for Europe, as he doesn't want to be held accountable for the destruction The Children of Atom are about to unleash. The story struggles with stilted dialogue that has characters often pontificating instead of simply conversing. Readers may be confused by the novel’s inadequate scene-setting, which sometimes makes it difficult to understand what’s going on. Intermittent flashbacks and “interludes” further confuse the action, and, as a result, readers may find this short novel’s warring storylines hard to follow.

An ambitious but awkwardly executed thriller.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 2002
ISBN: 978-0595216017
Page count: 188pp
Publisher: Writer's Showcase Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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