Queen Victorias Bomb: The Disclosures of Professor Franklin Huxtable, M.A. Ronald William Clark


Published: 1968


234 pages


Queen Victorias Bomb: The Disclosures of Professor Franklin Huxtable, M.A.  by  Ronald William Clark

Queen Victorias Bomb: The Disclosures of Professor Franklin Huxtable, M.A. by Ronald William Clark
1968 | Hardcover | PDF, EPUB, FB2, DjVu, talking book, mp3, RTF | 234 pages | ISBN: | 7.29 Mb

I have been fascinated by this title ever since seeing it decades ago in a friend’s Book of SF Lists. Before finally deciding to purchase it online, I had never encountered the title since, either in used book stores, or even seeing it referred to in any other work about science fiction, even on lists of alternate history novels.This is SF without the influence of pulp magazines or the stylistic daring of the then emerging New Wave, a book as staid and respectable as the Queen of its title.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Victorian scientist Franklin Huxtable, the inventor of the atomic bomb roughly 100 years before its actual development. Clark was the author of a nonfiction book about the development of the bomb and became fascinated with the idea that its basic elements were known in Victorian times and that someone with the proper insight could have conceived and built the weapon long before the Manhattan Project. Despite a battlefield climax reminiscent of other adventure novels set during the British Empire, this is a novel of ideas more than action.

Clark looks at how science is actually done and the types of observations and intuitions which would lead Huxtable to his discovery. Once the invention is made there are as many pages devoted to discussions of how the bomb could and should be used and the morality of its use as there are to Huxtable’s travels to various corners of the Empire with his invention. Clark puts into the mouths of his Victorian characters variations of actual arguments put forward by military and scientific experts and skeptics from the 1940s, all conscientiously footnoted.As Huxtable meets various historic figures, the presentation occasionally reminded me of the Flashman novels, if one can imagine a Flashman who is sober, chaste, studious, and respectable in both his behavior and opinions.

Huxtable’s manservant and assistant Dobbins, a man who both knows his station and knows a considerable amount outside his station, could be a potential Sam Weller, but his color is significantly subdued by being presented through the smoked glass of Huxtable’s narration. I don’t want to diminish the book on the basis of its rather bland narrator- Huxtable’s narration seems to me a successful piece of ventriloquism.

His statements, ideas, and priorities are exactly what we would expect of someone of his position in the society of the time and I think that one of Clark’s points is that it would not take an extraordinary figure to make the discovery, just one who had the properly trained mind and the right experiences. The rather unobjectionable and unexceptional nature of the narrator may also be intended as a sort of neutral mask upon which the reader is encouraged to project his or her own personality, as the arguments for and against the device take on the nature of a dispute for Huxtable’s soul, and, by extension, the reader’s as well.In a way this novel is its own artifact of alternate history: what if Science Fiction had become respectable literature rather than the gaudy, pulpy, disreputable genre it became?

On the evidence of Queen Victoria’s Bomb, conservative in style, cautious in its leaps of imagination, I’m afraid that the form may not have had the energy to have lasted long enough to be discussed on the internet as a living and vital subject.

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