There are plenty jokes in speculative fiction. The electric sheep is a joke, as is the situation of Ragle J. Gumm; all grist to life’s comedy. Dad’s Nuke is full of gags, pretty much delivering one per chapter, per page.  In the first chapter of Dad’s Nuke, Dad’s neighbour unveils his new warhead, which accidentally destroys a nearby golf course. In the second chapter, Dad and Mum call in their youngest son, their twelfth child as it happens, and break the bad news to him that he is gay... and that he was genetically made that way, thanks to government advice to large families.

Dad’s Nuke is full of wild ironies because North America is ripe for such satire. Still, you can’t expect a neatly rounded cul de sac soap opera style satire, about the brilliant possibility of people owning their own tactical nuclear weapons. Dad’s Nuke is a book of vignettes and the first and best of these is the beautifully drawn conflict at the start, between Dad and his neighbours, and the resulting arms race that takes place.

America is strange, walled, and anonymous. There are large wild areas deemed far too dangerous, and yet at home, neighbours have fortified themselves against each other, with regular fatal consequences.   Consistent with much fiction about America, the characters are so thoroughly trapped and controlled, that it almost isn’t funny. They can barely do anything for fear of Stalinist style repression, and worse, you never know where it’s coming from. The inline criticism of life in the USA is very fine indeed:

Manna Spills Secrets to Local Researchers

Researchers at the Worlds Beyond Clinic announced today that preliminary testing of the ‘miracle’ clone-food recently retrieved from the New Christian Militia by sylvan traders has proved the substance to be derived from human protoplasm, with added fish-flavouring and an as-yet-unidentified substance that researchers conjecture is an addictive agent designed to induce craving and create mild euphoria upon ingestion. This is in keeping with the claims of the Christian Army that it possess a food cloned from the prepuce of Jesus Christ, preserved by a secret monastic line following instructions from St. Paul, who was reputedly given the slip of foreskin as a token of the late saviour’s affection.

Dad’s Nuke doesn’t fully deliver what I wanted, which was a post-nuclear neighbourhood farce, and that’s what the cover and blurb seem to suggest. That doesn’t make it poor, far from it. It just means that the book meanders off into the adventures of the character PJ and the Christian Militia, and they aren’t quite as colourful as Dad’s homespun neurosis. There are a couple of nuclear explosions in the book, and both very well described.

Dad got to work late Monday morning, but it was no big deal. A datastorm had kicked up in the rush of the first hour, and by the time he arrived his co-workers were soaring around with nets as light as cobwebs, catching the few stray bits and shaking them into wide-mouthed chutes. He was just in time for the first break, although there would be plenty of processing to do later. He sat on a lavender cloud next to the shapely simusecretary, smiling at the feel of her hand on his thigh, while around him warm currents smelling of scotch and expensive cologne bore faint erotic images like old blue-movie reels unrolling in the air. His sour stomach was literally in another world, in an ageing overweight body. Of course, it would be waiting for him when he got off work.