Books: Before the Fall

PRINCIPLES OF AMERICAN NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY: A NOVEL by Thomas McMahon. 246 pages. Atlantic-Little, Brown. $5.95.

From the somber afternoon of the nuclear age, two physicists, father and son, look back at its dawn. The elder had helped to build the Bomb. The younger has been blighted by it. The situation seems prefabricated for apologia or remorse from the father, denunciation or at least contempt from the son. One of the rewarding things about

Thomas McMahon's first novel, though, is the total absence of any predictable generation-gap bitterness. The loss of innocence and joy he...

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