The Trigger

Arthur Charles Clarke, Author, Michael P. Kube-McDowell, Author, Michael P. Kube-McDowell, Joint Author Spectra Books $24.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-553-10458-5
One of the grand old men of SF has teamed up with Kube-McDowell (Tyrant's Test, etc.) to imagine a near-future in which all traditional weapons that use gunpowder are rendered obsolete. Out of the blue, young physicist Jeffrey Horton has been chosen to join Nobelist Karl Brohier at a laboratory named Terabyte. While Horton pursues the ""stimulated emission of gravitons,"" a number of detonations rock the lab one day. Is this yet another terrorist attack in an America racked by violence? But it's gun clips and fireworks that exploded when Horton activated his experimental machine. After some experimentation, the lab team realizes that the device, shortly named the Trigger, causes virtually every traditional explosive within range to self-destruct. What follows is a detailed exploration of the effects of the Trigger on domestic America. Should it be made public? Who should be told first: the army, the president, the international community? To prevent being silenced by those whose power may be threatened, Brohier and Horton contact Grover Wilman, an iconoclastic U.S. senator with a strong antigun record. Wilman in turn leads them to President Mark Breland, and the full complexity of negotiating among the many factions invested in guns begins. Clarke and Kube-McDowell work through the pro and con arguments over the possession of guns and other gunpowder-based weapons, with care and research evident in every debate as they skillfully assess the tricky territory between individualism and collective trust. The authors are savvy enough never to choose easy answers, and though this political SF thriller occasionally slows down to depict detailed governmental negotiations and private deliberations, the unpredictable effects of the Trigger lend the familiar issue of gun control new urgency and excitement. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/1999
Release date: 12/01/1999
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