The H-Bomb Girl: Stephen Baxter: Faber Faber

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h bomb girl stephen baxter book cover artworkThe H-Bomb Girl: Stephen Baxter

“The Cuban Missile Crisis, Teddyboys, Rock N’ Roll, The Key To The End Of The World, Timetravel - There’s nothing quite like being a teenager in Liverpool during 1962…”

Laura Mann, 14, is The H-Bomb Girl and has just moved to Liverpool with her mum. Laura’s father is seperating from her mother, and he’s in the RAF, and very close to the rising angst between the US and Cuba.

This is a fictional account of history during the Cuban Missile Crisis, rise of the Beatles, threat of nuclear war and includes bit parts by the Beatles and Cilla Black. As I’ve spent quite a bit of time in and around Liverpool in the last few years, and the descriptions of 60s Liverpool, especially the Cavern and the feeling of the loud music rockets this story onto another parallel. I even looked around for footage of The Beatles playing early on in their career, and you can image The H-Bomb Girl and her friends somewhere in the crowd.

It’s worth pointing out that Baxter is well known for his harder SF, and this is quite a departure for him, don’t expect in your face SF, this is more subtle, and the way he introduces the SF elements are perfectly paced.

There is a big downside though, and that’s towards the end where the story collapses (as does the wall in The Cavern in an idiotic display of dangerousness of the British Military) and my suspension of belief was forced to vacate the area.

The descriptions of nuclear devestation, in diary form from a young girl’s point of view, is strong and sometimes terrifying. Following the story of how Laura tackles the threats laid before her, upto and including holding the key to stopping nuclear war. It shows, in an enlightened way, how there can be different perspectives on mundane things such as music, upto the reasons for allowing a nuclear war to happen.

Apart from the aforementioned story collapse towards the end, there is a lot of worthwhile reading, whether for pseudo historical reasons, or the story’s deeper meaning, it’s a worth borrowing from your sf mate to read.

H-Bomb Girl, listen to yourself. You are a fourteen-year-old girl, stuck in a hole in the ground, in Liverpool. How can you talk about causing wars or not? How can you talk about choosing futures? Who do you think you are, the Virgin Mary or Supergirl?

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