The Smuggled Atom Bomb – Philip Wylie

The Smuggled Atom Bomb

The Smuggled Atom Bomb


Duff, a gangly physics graduate student, is a boarder and helpmate in the Yates household, home also to the young and beautiful Eleanor Yates. When Duff blunders into a mystery that might be a national threat - or might be nothing - they set out to investigate.


I know of Philip Wylie primarily from When Worlds Collide, which – as a kid – I thought of as a sophisticated, modern, adult story (probably because it mentioned a girl in a bikini). In any case, presumably because of that, I’ve always thought of him as writer from the ’60s or ’70s. I liked When Worlds Collide, so I eventually picked up some of his other novels as e-books.

I was surprised to find a very different, very wholesome, ’50s-feeling piece in this book. And, it turns out, that’s because it was written in the early ’50s, though Wylie wrote most of his books in the ’30s and ’40s. The kids are earnest, well-behaved, and full of good intentions, and shucks, the authorities aren’t half bad. It’s still got some of the ‘boy genius loves plucky beauty’ elements to it that were starting to fade away by that point, but it comes across as charming rather than sappy.

There are no great surprises here, but it’s a fun, easy, lighthearted book that I really wasn’t expecting. And as a bonus, it was the perfect palate cleanser between snarky Steven Brust books. I’m looking forward to reading more of Wylie’s books soon.

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