Anatomy of a Book: The Chain Reaction by Keith Hetherington

UntitledThe first victim was, ironically, the very man who had been warning for month that such a disaster could occur. (p.1)

This is the book tie-in for the film The Chain Reaction (1980).

The actions accomplished little, except to confirm what he had know (sic) all along: that all six chambers were loaded. But he liked guns, enjoyed handling them, caressed them with a sensuality that was almost sexual… (p.69)

To be fair, few books made for this purpose are great. They are hastily produced and try to mimic a film, which is hard for a book without lighting and music. The story about evil corporations covering up environmental disasters is annoying topical, though rather than recommended this as a book to read, there it more to learn from it about why it failed to capture the audience.

Changing Status:
One of the problems here is that the characters don’t greatly change. A lead character is exposed to irreversible radioactive contamination early in the book, and dies slowly. Another character is a mechanic taking on a big business, which is interesting as a big verses small dynamic. However, emotionally the characters do not change and so there is little connection to the reader.

High Stakes:
Amazingly the high stake of the end of the world is not held throughout the book. It is placed second in importance to the mystery of the dying man – which is only a mystery to the characters.

Continual Jeopardy:
Since the dying man is known by the read to die, threats over his life are irrelevant. At an early point a nurse and mechanic could be threatened, as an assassin sees them but inexplicitly backs away. Threats like this are never constant and rarely followed through. There is no continual jeopardy. It is not a page turner.

Believable Characters:
Because the characters do not change, and often make startling bad decisions for the high credentials they are given, the characters are mostly not believable. There is some sympathy for the nurse who looks after others, and understanding to the confusion of the mechanic, yet even these are limited in their reactions to their environment.

Time Pressure:
Most events take place over three days of text. Unfortunately these are indecisive days for most protagonists, and so despite the desperation they claim to have the time and events move slowly.

There is little to learn expect fear of corporations and bewilderment at officialdom stupidity. In other words, nothing new to learn.


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