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on January 15, 2003
Roy Tappen works for a (thankfully, fictional) nuclear weapons facility in the UK. He fights bureaucracy while trying to use it for his purpose, which is to undo the potentially disasterous results of a practical joke gone wrong.
What's scary is it looks so real, so familiar, to those of us who have dealt with government facilities.
It has a surprise resolution that is rather poetical.
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on December 16, 2001
Curses! Long after we'd abandoned hope of a reprint, and barely 12 weeks after I'd splashed out on a used - signed, no less - first edition, this imprint inexplicably appears!
Don't get me wrong: it's a pretty funny book. Set around the aptly-named "Robinson Heath" bomb lab (a blatant send-up of AWRE Aldermaston, where the author once worked), it recounts the exploits of scientist Roy Tappen who accidentally takes the fissile part of his work home one night and struggles to smuggle it back inside the fence. In the process, Langford shines the harsh light of satire on the secretive and cowering creatures of the Scientific Civil Service.
The plot is far-fetched (luckily), and the story mashes in a fair few in-jokes, such as place names, which mean that you can probably knock half a star off the rating if you haven't worked at Aldermaston and another half if you don't know the area. Shame to see the laser getting only one throwaway gag though, since it's such a multi-billion dollar save-the-earth project in the US and France now.
Langford's style a bit glib and teenaged (maybe he was still gloating at his escape?) but it rattles along quite nicely. But the best part has got to be the wonderfully succinct caricatures of inmates in UK Government labs: a must for anyone who's had to deal with them.
What's puzzling is the timing: Aldermaston was privatised in the early 1990s, so this tale isn't really a hard-hitting topical parody any more. In fact, the place is overdue for a sequel: trendy new management styles etc bred new stereotypes, and the funnier old ones, like the industrial-rate smokers, have gone. Also a pity that Langford didn't include some of the more timeless anecdotes from the "old days", such as the day the guards found that a hundred yards of the fence had been stolen, the guard who (while practising quick draws to while the night away) shot himself in the foot, the dreadful hostel "Boundary Hall" with its wing of 1950s originals still in residence (known in the 1980s as "Death Row") and which was double-glazed throughout - the month before it was demolished.
But overall, a good book. Nice to see it back in print!
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on December 16, 2001
Curses! Long after we'd abandoned hope of a reprint, and barely 12 weeks after I'd splashed out on a used - signed, no less - first edition, this imprint inexplicably appears!
Don't get me wrong: it's a pretty funny book. Set around the aptly-named "Robinson Heath" bomb lab (a blatant send-up of AWRE Aldermaston, where the author once worked), it recounts the exploits of scientist Roy Tappen who accidentally takes the fissile part of his work home one night and struggles to smuggle it back inside the fence. In the process, Langford shines the harsh light of satire on the secretive and cowering creatures of the Scientific Civil Service.
The plot is far-fetched (luckily), and the story mashes in a fair few in-jokes, such as place names, which mean that you can probably knock half a star off the rating if you haven't worked at Aldermaston and another half if you don't know the area. Shame to see the laser getting only one throwaway gag though, since it's such a multi-billion dollar save-the-earth project in the US and France now.
Langford's style a bit glib and teenaged (maybe he was still gloating at his escape?) but it rattles along quite nicely. But the best part has got to be the wonderfully succinct caricatures of inmates in UK Government labs: a must for anyone who's had to deal with them.
What's puzzling is the timing: Aldermaston was privatised in the early 1990s, so this tale isn't really a hard-hitting topical parody any more. In fact, the place is overdue for a sequel: trendy new management styles etc bred new stereotypes, and the funnier old ones, like the industrial-rate smokers, have gone. Also a pity that Langford didn't include some of the more timeless anecdotes from the "old days", such as the day the guards found that a hundred yards of the fence had been stolen, the guard who (while practising quick draws to while the night away) shot himself in the foot, the dreadful hostel "Boundary Hall" with its wing of 1950s originals still in residence (known in the 1980s as "Death Row") and which was double-glazed throughout - the month before it was demolished.
But overall, a good book. Nice to see it back in print!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
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on December 16, 2001
Curses! Long after we'd abandoned hope of a reprint, and barely 12 weeks after I'd splashed out on a used - signed, no less - first edition, this imprint inexplicably appears!
Don't get me wrong: it's a pretty funny book. Set around the aptly-named "Robinson Heath" bomb lab (a blatant send-up of AWRE Aldermaston, where the author once worked), it recounts the exploits of scientist Roy Tappen who accidentally takes the fissile part of his work home one night and struggles to smuggle it back inside the fence. In the process, Langford shines the harsh light of satire on the secretive and cowering creatures of the Scientific Civil Service.
The plot is far-fetched (luckily), and the story mashes in a fair few in-jokes, such as place names, which mean that you can probably knock half a star off the rating if you haven't worked at Aldermaston and another half if you don't know the area. Shame to see the laser getting only one throwaway gag though, since it's such a multi-billion dollar save-the-earth project in the US and France now.
Langford's style a bit glib and teenaged (maybe he was still gloating at his escape?) but it rattles along quite nicely. But the best part has got to be the wonderfully succinct caricatures of inmates in UK Government labs: a must for anyone who's had to deal with them.
What's puzzling is the timing: Aldermaston was privatised in the early 1990s, so this tale isn't really a hard-hitting topical parody any more. In fact, the place is overdue for a sequel: trendy new management styles etc bred new stereotypes, and the funnier old ones, like the industrial-rate smokers, have gone. Also a pity that Langford didn't include some of the more timeless anecdotes from the "old days", such as the day the guards found that a hundred yards of the fence had been stolen, the guard who (while practising quick draws to while the night away) shot himself in the foot, the dreadful hostel "Boundary Hall" with its wing of 1950s originals still in residence (known in the 1980s as "Death Row") and which was double-glazed throughout - the month before it was demolished.
But overall, a good book. Nice to see it back in print!
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