Robert Reed. The Good Hand. (Asimovs, January 2010)

Clever reflection on the current issues with the Iranian nuclear bomb-building programme.

Reed postulates a world in which the USA keeps a very firm stranglehold on its nuclear bomb technology after the end of the second world war, willing to take the ultimate step in ensuring that no other nation get their own nuclear capability.

A businessman is heading over to France to conclude some business, and there is a huge tension with the French people he meets, for whom the Americans are beyond the pale. Whilst the Americans believe that their global dominance is a price worth paying for peace, other countries have different views. The subtle differences back in the States is shown through clever reference to Hollywood.

The tension rises when the Americans show that they are still willing to take drastic action to retain the status quo, and the businessmen finds himself threatened with being part of a human shield put in place to protect the just-discovered French space programme.

Reed, as ever, gets the characterisation and detail right, and doesn’t make the mistake of making the jet-lagged businessman embracing those who he has been previously at odds with.

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