Atomic Number Sixty by Dave Johnston is an interesting, quirky little novel with an interesting premise. The reader should be able to finish the book in one hour … or so. Each of the sixty chapters begins with a time stamp in the upper right, just to keep you motivated, of course. In fact, the time stamp is not for you; it is for Holly. It marks the last hour of her life and she asks the all-important question that many of us have asked ourselves, mostly in some sort of party game atmosphere. What would you do or think about or feel if you knew you had only one more hour to live? Or one more year, or one more day. There are lots of variations on “the game.” And this game is more vital than the other party games Holly suggests, Scrabble or Snakes and Ladders, played naked.
There is a lot of death in this short read. Holly’s brother died while she and he were still young. The horse in the barn died. Leo’s friend Dimitri died. William the janitor died. And the threat of the imminent death of Leo, Holly, and anyone in City Hall are the cocoon holding the novel together for its short life.
What can the reader expect? A fast read. A surprise ending. And the comfortable knowledge that the reader will be able to get through it and be surprised in a period of time under two hours, for sure. Maybe you will not be able to get through it in one hour. It is only polite to say hi to the kids when they come through the door while you are reading this. There might be snack preparation time or a bathroom break.
But for completion addicts, this is an easy one to add to your “done” list or strike off your “to do” list.