I’d never heard of this book before stumbling upon it at the Strand last week. Its cover hails it as a lost classic of the atomic age and while the “lost” part seems indisputable, the “classic” descriptor is up for debate.
Stephen Decatur Smith narrates his chance happening on perhaps the biggest story of the century, the fact that no new babies are being born. It seems as though a nuclear accident has rendered the male population of the world entirely sterile. Humanity’s future looks hopeless until Steve discovers that a man named Homer Adam has managed to impregnate his wife. Mr. Adam was way down in a mineshaft protected by lead walls when the mass sterilization occurred.
The news of Mr. Adam’s potency sets off a panic of sorts, as the nation’s women demand that they be impregnated, which husbands like Mr. Smith bristle at the idea. Government agencies compete over the right to control Mr. Adam and the re-fertilization effort, with bureaucracy and ego getting in the way at every step. There’s also the fact that Homer doesn’t particularly feel like helping re-populate the Earth.
Mr. Adam is certainly a curiosity. Written shortly after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki it serves as a dual satire on the inefficiency of government and the calculated heartlessness of science. While its gender politics are far from “woke” those who can see past the dated attitudes about men’s and women’s roles in society will get a kick out of Mr. Adam.