Select one of the keywords
A Hole in Texas    by Herman Wouk order for
Hole in Texas
by Herman Wouk
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

After a decade's hiatus, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Caine Mutiny and many other renowned works brings us A Hole in Texas. The 'enormous abandoned Hole' was made by the 'gargantuan' Superconducting Super Collider project, 'the largest basic science project in world history' that absorbed billions of dollars in its search for the 'Higgs boson' before Congress cancelled it.

The novel's protagonist, Dr. Guy Carpenter, had a key role in the project, but now works for NASA. He has a loving wife, Penny, a grown son researching in Samoa, a new baby girl named Dinah, and a cat named Sweeney. He's a rational scientist, whose problems range from getting out the garbage and in the cat, to a sore back and perennial funding worries. But Carpenter also has a grad school history with high-powered Chinese scientist Dr. Wen Men (Wendy) Li, with whom he has kept up a secretive communication over the years via a post-office box. It's immediately clear to the reader that this will cause him some difficulty; the question becomes, does he deserve it?

Guy's troubles begin when the Chinese announce that they have found the Higgs boson. The media begins fearmongering about its superweapon potential, and that hole in Texas is all over the news. Soon Guy is teaching technology to ex-movie star Congresswoman Myra Kadane, who writes delightful letters to her dead husband. Carpenter's explanations of basic science are clear and simple as in the difference between an accelerator and a collider, 'an accelerator slams a stream of particles into a stationary target, while a collider whips two streams around in opposite directions and smashes them into each other.'

Our hero is offered a film consultancy and the use of a personal jet, and he tells Penny that it feels like he's 'leaping off a ski jump at night, into a black void.' He's right! A newspaper bloodhound, 'Dracula with a press card', is on his trail, sniffing out a story on Carpenter and Wendy. When the reporter gets no cooperation from his target, he villifies Guy. The scientist is soon sinking into a quagmire, deserted by wife, baby and cat, and with Dracula at his throat. Luckily the Congresswoman remains in his corner.

The resolution reminded me a little of Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, whose naive but highly intelligent protagonist is also saved by savvy lawyers, while surrounded by lovely ladies. A Hole in Texas is high entertainment (I especially appreciated the G8 Meeting in Outer Mongolia), and it sneaks in an education while you're not looking - in popular science and on how basic research is funded. Definitely not to be missed.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Contemporary books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews