Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, February 17, 2012

1962: Purple-6 (Brinton, Henry)

The secret is loose and a spy is amongst them (3/5)
From May 18, 2011

Rear cover synopsis:
"Russian missiles were hurtling toward the coast of England; British warheads were in flight to the enemy targets. The life of mankind was ticking away second by second..."

That's pretty short and it's also inaccurate. A more fleshed out synopsis would have been something like this: Will Burley hosts a Sunday open house where his friends and acquaintances gather to discuss current events but is interrupted by a phone call, `Duty Officer, Farnden. Purple-7.' Will's eyes' glaze over, he blankly tells his wife he must go and with seven minutes of life remaining he rushes to the underground base before the single missile hits England. Soon it becomes clear that the missile was in fact a Mars launch... but the surprise is that the launch vehicle was installed with a copy of a the supposedly secret anti-missile missile circuiting diagram. Will Burley was one of two men who had access to the diagram.

The first third off this 192-page novel is rich with cold war secretive fervor, clandestine sciences and a rustic English home life. The contrast is as inviting as it is foreboding. What ensues for the next eighty pages is much bickering between the security agent and the scientists, who both eye each other suspiciously yet instinctively know that the other is not a Russian mole. There are many snippy conversations, thrown accusations, mightier-than-thou one-liners and finger pointing. I would have liked to have seen a more calm but in-depth look into their lives, their acquaintances and their habits. Towards the end of the investigation I had three likely conclusions, each of which would have been a good ending if Brinton could have wrangled it.

But, in the end the conclusion wasn't as grand as I had hoped it would have been. When the conclusion is mentally drawn out, so too does the rest of the plot unto its' end. The heartache Burley experiences when his wife leaves him (as he's too involved with his work and she doesn't like the accusations), the strained friendship of Burley and his friend/boss C.H. (the only two suspects) and the urgent need to figure it all out to move onward with the research to save Western civilization: these three matters are the strings of he emotional violin Burley lives with.

The descriptive paragraphs are very well worded and it takes a bit of imagination to immerse yourself in Burley's life and work but all that is abruptly vaporized with preachy dialogue which is too well formed to feel life dialogue; rather it's a symposium for anti-war sentiment and pragmatism. If it weren't for the sharp, too well defined dialogue, the book would have garnered a fair 4-stars but it takes effort to immerse oneself in a world and an equally opposite amount of effort to shake oneself out of it by wordy preachers. Although, I almost feel inclined to grant it one for star for the ultimate conclusion...

Too bad Brinton never wrote anything else. This was his first and only novel.

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