Public Faces

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Nicholson, Harold. Public Faces. London: Constable, 1932. Germany (probably Leipzig): Bernhard Tauchnitz Publishers, 1933.[1] For other editions, see AbeBooks, here.[2]

In Voices Prophesying War, I.F. Clarke sites Nicholson's work for its reference to atomic weapons, fairly long after H. G. Wells introduced the term "atomic bomb" in The World Set Free (ch. 5, pp. 157-58), and we will note, after P. F. Nolan's climactic (if understated) use of atomic weapons in his second Buck Rogers story, "The Airlords of Han" in 1929.

One Amazon.com review notes that in the novel, "[...] the British impose universal disarmament through their monopoly of atomic bombs delivered by rockets strongly resembling cruise missiles. Nicolson's weapons are far more powerful than those of Wells: one dropped off the coast of Florida creates a tidal wave which kills eighty thousand people [Clarke says in South Carolina], shifts the course of the Gulf Stream, and permanently alters the climate."[3]

Clarke notes that Nicholson is "careful to separate his theme of the atomic bomb from all connection with the political situation of the 1930s because his target was the dangers of technological warfare." Part of the message is that weapons that can be produced and used will be used, although the upshot of the story is that "The British recoil from the disaster" of their demonstration explosion in the Atlantic — a U.S. cruiser is sunk in addition to the deaths from the tidal wave — and, as morally required, the British government "write their never again into the historical record" promising to destroy their bombs and make no more (p. 158).


RDE, finishing, 21Dec20