A World War II Scientific Thriller

In last week’s blog post, I mentioned several of the podcasts I listen to mainly for pleasure, including Science Friday. In one of life's cool twists of fate, a couple of days after that post, I listened to a back episode of Science Friday. One of the segments was an interview with Sam Kean, the author of The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies Who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb.

Cover of the book The Bastard Brigade

As the author discussed a few of the characters and stories from the book, I found myself completely drawn in. When one story sparked an idea for a plot twist in my current book, I stopped listening to the podcast and immediately checked out the audiobook from my local library. 

I love this book. It’s a scientific spy thriller that follows several colorful main characters. These characters with all their associated flaws, quirks, and strengths, give the book its heart, turning what could have been a dry relating of historic dates and scientific facts into a gripping series of tales. The audiobook version is narrated by Ben Sullivan and he really brings the characters alive. I’ve laughed. I’ve groaned “oh no!” at bouts of terrible luck. And I’ve rolled my eyes at the idiocy of some people. 

Throughout these tales of derring-do, failures, and heartbreak the author weaves in details about the science that’s driving the story. He does this in such a clear way that what might have been incomprehensible discussions of physics or chemistry become understandable to the layperson. I wish he’d been my college physics teacher!

As for the story that sparked my creative muse? I’m not telling right now. But both the physical mission and the reactions of the characters to the events gave me insight into how best to handle a specific plot point in my book.

Whether you prefer to consume stories through audio or through the printed word, I highly recommend that you check out The Bastard Brigade. Not only will you learn a lot about the science underlying World War II, but you’ll get insight into a fascinating set of characters.

For buy links, to read an excerpt , or to view extra photos, visit the author’s website.

If you decide to try it out, please let me know what you think!