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A Hole in Texas: A Novel by Herman Wouk

A Hole in Texas: A Novel (edition 2004)

by Herman Wouk

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235549,137 (3.16)6
Title:A Hole in Texas: A Novel
Authors:Herman Wouk
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2004), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 288 pages
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A Hole in Texas: A Novel by Herman Wouk



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Prior to reading this book, I had only read two of Wouk's novels. I was very impressed. The first – The Caine Mutiny - is well known, if for nothing else, because of the movie it is based on. But the novel surpasses the movie (as so often happens.) It is a straight ahead narrative of a mutiny and the misconceived perceptions people have about other people. Serious and compelling, I greatly enjoyed it. Because of that experience, the second book was a surprise. Don't Stop the Carnival was humorous look at a man who attempts to run away from his nasty life in the big city. Funny, acerbic, touching, lovable off-beat characters – again, a book I enjoyed. Two novels by one author as different in temperament as could be. Yet both showed the Wouk's skills as a storyteller who also had the skill to bring very different kinds of people to life.

Two books that indicate Wouk is at home in many different milieus and equally successful. And the setting of a stage for my expectations of continued great things.

A Hole in Texas falls into the same category as Don't Stop the Carnival. It is intended to be a wry look at the collision between politics and science. The "hole" alluded to is the super collider that was almost completed in Texas. The book's primary focus is Guy Carpenter – a physicist who worked on that collider. Events transpire (recent events over which he has no control and past events for which he must bear the blame) which cause him to be brought back to the project. It seems the Chinese have made a significant discovery in that arena. The US reacts in a way very reminiscent to the 60's-space-race paranoia that followed Sputnik. However, it is the 21st Century, so now throw in the power of the media and a little Hollywood megabillion dollar mania, and you have the environment in which the novel functions. We are told the story of how this all goes strangely, while showing us more about Guy and the people around him – their strengths and foibles – and we learn that craziness is not the purview of any one group or any one individual.

I am tempted to add the phrase "and hilarity ensues" because I think that is part of the point. Unfortunately, while Wouk makes several attempts, what ensures is less hilarity and more a shrug of the shoulders and, occasionally, a minor titter. You may have noted that I previously used the phrase "intended to be a wry look". The road to so-so books is paved with such intentions.

You can see this book trying. It is trying to be satirical. It is trying to be funny. It is trying (as it says on the back cover blurb) to be rollicking. But it never gets above try. Part of the problem is that this attempt relies too much on clichés we have all seen. The crazed Hollywood people, the bickering Washington lawmakers, the buried-in-their-studies scientists. Even the infidelities feel contrived. None rise above the clichés to become something more, nor are the clichés used to effectively evoke humor, wryness, the ability to "rollick".

And (giving nothing away) the end seems far too pat and, in today's political environment, implausible. (And the book is from 2004 – it was just as implausible then.) Somewhat happy times for all.

I just didn't buy it.

This is a pleasant enough novel. And Wouk is a good writer – his skills are the only thing that saves the novel. But, shy of a quick read when nothing else peaks your interest, it is a novel that really hasn't got that much worth going after. There is definitely worse out there, but there is also better. ( )
1 vote figre | Jan 23, 2014 |
Very entertaining satire of Congress, Hollywood, nosy and malicious reporters, and dog-eat-dog Academia which also teaches particle physics in a surprisingly understandable way. I loved it! ( )
  markbstephenson | May 26, 2010 |
About 300 pages. I read it in 3 days. Well developed, interesting characters. I liked the technical physics talk. Some good humor and great drama. Perhaps too many attractions of a romantic nature and too much alcohol drinking made main character a bit unbelieveable. I mean could you be a high level physicist in NASA and drink and romance that much and still have time for work?
  normaleistiko | Aug 30, 2008 |
What, me reading mundane (non-SF) fiction? Not exactly, since the title's "hole" is the one left by the Superconducting SuperCollider (SSC) project infamously killed by Congress in 1993. The SSC might have found the Higgs boson, the still-missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics. Now, Wouk's plot asks, what if the present-day Chinese were to discover the Higgs and develop a Boson Bomb?
  fpagan | Nov 25, 2006 |
Herman is Pulitzer Prize winner. He certainly didn’t win it for this book. It seemed like it was written following a model. Combine 3 popular things which each appeal to a diverse range of people to increase book sales. In this case the book combines American politics, quantum physics and an orange cat. The Chinese have discovered the Higgs bosum particle and the Americans are afraid they’re going to make a bomb. The orange cat contributes little to the story line.

Don't waste your time. Go read a good book. ( )
  Miche11e | Dec 3, 2005 |
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It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.

     - Mark Twain
To my brother
Victor Wouk, PhD,
California Institute of Technology '42
with admiration and love
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We all have bad days, and Dr. Guy Carpenter awoke to rain drumming on gray windows, with a qualm in his gut about what this drab day might bring.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316525901, Hardcover)

Guy Carpenter is a physicist with a quiet, settled life: a prestigious job at NASA, a devoted wife and new baby, and a troublemaking cat. But he is about to get mixed up in an international scandal of enormous proportions. Years ago, Guy worked on the Superconducting Super Collider, a giant scientific project dedicated to detecting a tiny, elusive particle, the Higgs Boson. Wrangling in Congress shut the project down before it could fulfill its objective, but now the Chinese claim to have found the Boson-a discovery that sends the nation into a panic. How did the Chinese surpass American science? What about the horrific military implications of a Boson Bomb? Is it time to start casting Hollywood's first Boson blockbuster? An expert is needed to assess the new threat to national security. Before he knows it, Carpenter is propelled into the center of the media blitz, his old love with a Chinese female physicist resurfaces, a new romance with a beautiful Congresswoman beckons, and the breakup of his happy marriage threatens. In the meantime, Congress holds urgent hearings, Hollywood comes courting, and an unctuous reporter dogs his every step. It's going to be anything but a typical few weeks. Once again, Herman Wouk exercises his deep insight and considerable comic powers to give us a witty and keen satire about Washington, the media, and science, and what happens when these three great forces of American culture clash.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:33 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Physicist Guy Carpenter finds his peaceful life with a prestigious career at NASA turned upside down by a Chinese scientific discovery that raises serious questions about possible military implications, an old love affair, and national security.

(summary from another edition)

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