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The Bookshelf

MR. ADAM, by Pat Frank. J. B. Lippincott Co. 252 pages. $2.50.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Nine months after Mississippi is blown off the map by an explosion at a uranium processing plant, American hospitals and medicos become creepingly aware that people have just stopped having babies. From the headquarters of the New York Daily World the special events editor checks the report that the calamity is world wide. Moscow cuts itself off from the world; there are riots in Paris and a wave of vice in Rome; London pleads with its populace to remain calm while a Royal Commission continues its investigation. And while the world sits on the brink of disaster, Mr. Adam, of Tarrytown, N. Y., gives birth to a normal baby girl and Mr. Adam goes to Washington as the greatest hero since Lindbergh. Such is the new moved by journalist Frank, who deftly beams a spotlight on the tightrope that the ordinary Joe and wife must tread during an atomic age.

In Washington, Adam is made the darling of the N.R.P. (National Re-fertilization Project), while the N.R.C. (the scientists) demands that Adam be submitted to further tests to find out why the loss of Mississippi turned out so badly. While Colonel Phelps-Smythe, who is bucking for a star, takes over security arrangements, the bureaucrats take up the bit and proceed to run organizationally amuck, turning the hope of humanity into the greatest show since N.R.A. went out. Adam is torn between policy meetings screen tests (Hollywood foresees a race of gawky, Adam-like red-heads) and experimental sessions with an adventuress, The Frame, who would give future generations that Vassar look. The villainess of the piece, female Senator Faye Sumner Knott, (sic) has predatory eyes slanted toward Adam, but partisan politics interfere. The first Adam is not to be Republican. In desperation, the U.S. turns to A.I. (artificial insemination), lest the Russians exploit two normal Mongolians newly discovered in Tashkent and outstrip the American effort.

What happens is funny, relevant and packed with real insight into the Washington circus. Pat Frank knows his bureaucrats and readers are beginning to have fears about this atomic business. Combine the two and you have several hours of pleasant, if feather-light reading.

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