Title: Medusa’s Child
Author: John J. Nance
Nance, John J. (1997). Medusa’s Child. New York : Doubleday
- Transport planes–Fiction.
- Nuclear weapons–Fiction.
- Air pilots–Fiction.
- Washington (D.C.)–Fiction.
Date Updated: June 7, 2015
While I like thrillers, and particularly those involving advanced technology, I found this book stretching credibility on a number of things. The crisis of the book develops when a disgruntled U.S. nuclear scientist, formerly working in the U.S. weapons program, wills his ex-wife the unthinkable, a thermonuclear bomb. This is no common nuke. It is engineered to create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) orders of magnitude greater than anything experienced from the largest weapons in the U.S. arsenal.
Before his death, the scientist con’s his ex-wife into taking a so-called “model” of a Medusa device to the Pentagon for analysis. A working Medusa bomb, the theory goes, would knock out all of the working computers in North America, while killing a few million people at the same time. For the purposes of national security, the former Machiavellian husband argues that this information belongs in the hands of our military to study and defend against. But in transit to the nation’s capitol, the model comes alive in the belly of a Boeing 727 air cargo jet, and its inventor speaks from the grave.
Medusa’s Child maybe author John Nance’s finest aviation thriller. The heroes of this novel not only have to battle a bomb to survive, they have to battle horrendous weather, fuel limitations, a screwed up military, a paranoid FBI, and the limitations of their own aging 727. One adversarial situation after another, they just keep coming. And one after another, the pilots keep on flying.
I am not convinced that a 727 could land on the deck of a navy carrier, regardless of how well the scenario is devised. I am unconvinced that there is anyway to boost EMP to the level suggested in the book. The source of the EMP is from radiation absorbed and re-radiated from bomb blast debris. I am willing to give Nance that such a device might be devised, but whoa, what happens in the airplane, especially with hurricane-force winds buffeting the aircraft, just doesn’t fly with me.
My copy of this is from Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Select Editions (1997, Vol. 233, No. 5, pp. 291-445).