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The Trigger    by Arthur C. Clarke & Michael Kube-McDowell order for
by Arthur C. Clarke
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Trigger takes the traditional 'what if' approach to science fiction and details the consequences to society of a unique scientific breakthrough in the near future. A serendipitous discovery results in an anti-weapon, a technology that stops conventional weapons (guns, bombs and explosives) from working within its area of influence. The scientists agonize over how to release this information to the world and finally do it through an unusually enlightened Senator and U.S. President, with a backup release of research copies through the Internet.

Of course there are glitches in field application of the technology and innocent people are hurt by the initial version which blows up weapons. As the technology is improved the gun lobby and organized crime get in on the act. The book lays out all the arguments - the gun lobby's belief in a strong association between the individual right to bear arms and democracy, and the opposing view of the contribution of the availability of guns to steadily increasing violence in society.

Each chapter begins with a news story summary of an incidence of violence around the world. What is especially horrifying about them is that, though worse than what we hear of today, they are close enough to current news accounts that it does not seem to be very far ahead. That is frightening and reminds us of the trend of increasing widespread casual violence in the last few years. The story and the characters themselves are not gripping, but the subject is for anyone concerned about trends of violence and their representation in the media and the entertainment industry.

Read The Trigger for a well detailed analysis of the impact on society of a technology development that would obsolete current weapons. It's an excellent example of traditional science fiction and even throws in the usual twist at the ending ... just in case anyone becomes too complacent about the potential of science to solve human problems.

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