three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
11-July-Aug-2004
By: 
Herman Wouk
user_rating: 
0

A Novel

A-HoleTexasWhen the government pulled the funding on his superconductor project in the 1990s, Dr. Guy Carpenter found himself out of a job. Ten years later, and a new father at the age of 60, he’s working for NASA and consulting for a Hollywood techno-thriller. Suddenly it is announced that the Chinese have succeeded where Guy and his superconductor team had failed: they found the Higgs boson particle that holds the key to a new and deadly bomb. Suddenly, Guy’s past romantic ties to the beautiful physicist who now leads the Chinese group raises difficult questions. His wife, the media, and Congress all want answers—as does the former movie star congresswoman who controls the purse strings to Guy’s NASA project.
Little, Brown. 278 pages. $25.

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Wouk’s satirical chops are as sharp as ever, his funny bone just as funny. … [His] meticulously researched lampoon of science, government bureaucracy, and media overkill delivers one satisfying swipe after another." Rob Levandoski

Baltimore Sun 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Nominally, the book is a literary political thriller—a good one, a sprightly one that moves with lean, brisk, convincing energy. … It’s a book without the ambition of some of Wouk’s earlier work—the raising of fundamental complex questions." Michael Pakenham

NY Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Herman Wouk’s new novel carries the occasional hint that the author is closing in on his 89th birthday next month. … [Yet] he spins it into a crackling yarn and writes with an enduring vigor that whippersnappers might envy." Janet Maslin

Chicago Sun-Times 3 of 5 Stars
"[Carpenter is] an uncommon Everyman: a naïve idealist squeezed by the pressures of long-lost love, marital loyalty, career disappointments, Hollywood producers, and much else that makes the story perfect airplane reading. … [Wouk] has written a parody—unintentional perhaps, and in the soap-opera genre—rather than a cautionary tale." Jan Herman

Dallas Morning News 1.5 of 5 Stars
"…once the basic concepts are explained—and explained, and explained again—Mr. Wouk shifts gears into a silly cross-country romp that skips from Hollywood to Waxahachie to Cornell to Stanford to Washington. … Satire is a scalpel, but too often [he] wields it like a cudgel." Rick Holter

Washington Post 1.5 of 5 Stars
"A Hole in Texas positively oozes with science, much of which the lay reader … will find very difficult to grasp. … Wouk wants to entertain, which he accomplishes intermittently, and he also wants to instruct, which he does with commendable earnestness but which slows the pace to a very slow crawl." Jonathan Yardley

Critical Summary

Reviews varied widely for this Pulitzer Prize winner’s newest fiction in ten years. Hole in Texas is definitely no Caine Mutiny, but it has its charms—according to some critics, a satirical wit, vigorous plot, and convincing (if often outdated) dialogue. Yet even the reviewers who enjoyed Wouk’s latest called it "one plot twist shy of being absolutely wonderful" (Cleveland Plain Dealer). The faltering conclusion, stereotypical depiction of the Chinese scientist, Wendy, and implausible scenes and cameos appearances by Dustin Hoffman and Peter Jennings diminish what could be a powerful satire on science, power, and politics. Still, Wouk is a master storyteller who, critics concede, still knows what’s he’s doing.