Book Review

The New AToms' Bombshell

by Robert Browne
Reviewed date: 2006 Jan 17
Rating: 1
212 pages
cover art

By the 1990s baseball was in serious trouble, as you know. Talent was scarce. At the same time, fan support was declining, due in part to the reckless city-skipping owners out to make a fast buck. Those money-hungy slobs relocated teams like pioneers settling the frontier--slashing and burning, plundering and wasting, moving on and leaving ruin in their wake.

The [Chicago] AToms had been established as a result of the merger of two older major league teams. [Thomas] Samuel has purchased the franchise and moved the team to the Windy City, vowing a pennant would follow shortly. He had named his ball club the "AToms", thus commemorating Chicago as the fatherland of the nuclear bomb and Tom Samuel as father of its ball team. It was the perfect compromise between his narcissism and his civic pride.

The New AToms' Bombshell is a science fiction book about baseball. The basic premise is this: the AToms, last place finishers in their league, have a new owner who believes he can improve the team's performance through statistical analysis and prediction. The players are wired to a central computer, which analyzes baseball statistics and controls the players as pawns in its game of statistically predicting the future.

In science fiction, that works. The AToms win games by knowing ahead of time what the opposition is likely to do. They can pitch the ball that the batter is least likely to hit. They can move their fielders into the best position to make a play on the ball.

Of course they have two secret weapons: 1) a woman pinch hitter, who never actually takes a swing but rather jiggles her assets at the stupefied pitcher and always manages to draw a walk; and 2) a mentally retarded man whose favorite thing to do is hit horseflies with pieces of cardboard, but who will hit a baseball with a bat--with uncanny accuracy--if bribed with french fries.

The New AToms' Bombshell is not a very good book. The AToms do manage to make the playoffs, after winning all three games of their final season series with the previous division champion Yankees. But even worse is how they manage to win: they decide that playing under computer supervision is degrading, so they just play without supervision. And they manage to overcome a complete lack of training and still beat the Yankees. Unbelievable. Unbelievably hokey, in the worst way.

The New AToms' Bombshell rates just one out of five.

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