The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor, by Ken Silverstein (Random House, 2004)

In June of 1995, the Federal Government swooped down upon an unsuspecting Michigan subdivision, where a teenager's efforts to build a nuclear "breeder" reactor in his backyard were bathing his neighborhood in dangerous levels of radioactivity.

David Hahn was not an ordinary teenaged boy, but a brilliant mind trapped in an unfortunate life. Long before David began playing with radioactive materials, his nuclear family experienced its own meltdown. He had two parents, two step-parents, a step-sister, numerous schoolteachers, a Scout troop, and plenty of fellow students, but none of them realized how bright and determined he was. He told them what he was doing, but no one believed him.

It’s a fascinating tale, so the book should be hard to put down. Instead, I found it hard to wade through. The basic story must be teased out from the midst of the author’s diatribes against nuclear power, the Boy Scouts, and anyone with a positive attitude toward scientific progress. Some of his logic is so bizarre as to be almost amusing: The Boy Scouts are to blame for David’s actions because they have an Atomic Energy merit badge. Scouting is an evil institution because Lord Baden-Powell, its founder, was opposed to masturbation. It’s not surprising that no one recognized David’s genius, because he was a bad speller. Real geniuses get good grades and channel their scientific inquisitiveness into school-sponsored activities.

The Radioactive Boy Scout contains a great story, but it's a dull book. Recommended for those who are curious enough to be willing to put up with the propaganda, or who would enjoy reading tirades against both the Boy Scouts and nuclear power; or who can’t sleep and don’t want to reach for the Sominex.®
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 14, 2005 at 9:13 pm | Edit
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