Nuclear Power Nuclear Game by Helen Huang


The year is 1950. Zoe and John, two young nuclear scientists from Berkeley, seem to have the perfect life, with promising careers and marriage plans. But their innocence is soon shattered when the Chinese Communist Party seizes power. Choosing to postpone the wedding and return back to her home country, Zoe finds herself locked in a political cage and separated from John indefinitely.

Caught in a complex web of revolutionary propaganda and forced to participate in dangerous research, Zoe must confront the looming question of where her true loyalties lie: with her country or with John back in America?

Set during China’s march towards nuclear power amidst the political turmoil of the Cold War, Nuclear Power Nuclear Game spans multiple decades and countries across the globe to tell the story of two nuclear scientists’ fight for world peace and a love torn apart by conflicting ideologies.


Q: What inspired you to write Nuclear Power Nuclear Game?

A: My own personal experience working at a Nuclear Institute in China inspired me to write this book. During my time working as an architect at the Institute, it was the only nuclear research institute in China designing nuclear power plants, where some of the top scientists and engineers were transferred from military facilities. There I found a common attitude shared by many, a blind loyalty to their country often to the point of misfortune. I admired them in some ways, but also felt sorry for them.

I still remember that particular day, we were told to stay in our offices when the Iran nuclear delegation visited our institute. I asked quietly whether Iran really needed nuclear power considering it had plenty of oil, but nobody was interested in my question. Instead, my colleagues were busy talking about how much money the Iran project could cash in. Many years later after I migrated to Australia and was able to access information about international nuclear proliferation, I gradually formed a better understanding about what had happened on that day. Therefore, this book is a unique reflection on my experience and those of my former colleagues in the broader context of international nuclear politics.

Q: Why did you decide to publish this book?

A: Publishing this book is a fulfilment of my childhood dream. I was warned by my father not to study liberal arts, so I would not get into trouble for the rest of my life. Therefore, I chose to study architecture instead. I wish I could tell my father now that it is okay to study arts, because I’m in Australia.

In many ways, the main character Zoe is written in memory of my father who was branded a black element during the Cultural Revolution, and nearly died after a suicide attempt, but he never lost his characteristic kindness.

After the Tiananmen Massacre on June 4th 1989, the hope that Chinese people still held for having a democratic China even after experiencing the torturous years of the Culture Revolution was shattered completely. Many people gave up and left China, and I arrived in Australia three year later.

From the moment the plane landed in Melbourne Airport, I have fully embraced this new country, enjoyed the rich and versatile western culture, liberty, equality and fairness the promising land has offered to me and its people. Australia has given me a new life with a liberated soul and the ability to write this book. So, in some ways, this book is also an expression of my gratitude to Australia for adopting me.

Q: What do you hope readers get out of reading Nuclear Power Nuclear Game?

A: Until today, the world has known little about China’s nuclear developments and its impact on world nuclear peace; In fact, there are virtually no comparable books I can find. Therefore, the book will fill this blank spot of the publishing market.

China’s economic miracle for the last four decades is largely based on slavery, stealing technology from western countries and deceiving the international world. Its ambition of becoming the world leader has never changed since the day the Chinese Communist Party seized power in 1949. As political tensions between China and the West continue to escalate in the modern day, I believe this book is not only topical but it can also help readers to understand China better from another rarely explored angle.

I cried many times when I was writing this book. I was very moved when I was writing about Igor’s father, a Russian nuclear scientist, who refused to make nuclear bombs for the Soviet Government, finally dying in a Gulag. And the main character, Zoe, who survived political pressures, sexual violence, suicide, and hardships but never lost her sense of honesty. So, I hope readers will be entertained by this book containing the intriguing elements of espionage, politics, romance and history. And above all, I wish the book will bring the positive energy to the readers: to be strong, hold onto your faith in love and your loyalty to people you love.

Q: Can you share a bit of a teaser from the book, something that isn’t mentioned in the synopsis?

A: The book is planned to be part of a duology. The first book focuses on Zoe & John, two nuclear scientists and their life stories spanning 1950-1990s. The second book will focus on Zoe’s daughter, a nuclear safety researcher and her adventures escaping from Communist China’s regime.

While Zoe was locked in a political cage in China and forced to design nuclear bombs, John maintained his belief in anti-nuclear proliferation and was recruited to the CIA to monitor Pakistan’s nuclear program in Islamabad… A decade later, after a short reunion and resumption of their relationship in secret, John is kicked out of China on suspicions of government espionage and they are torn apart once again.

It was very important to me to have the main characters hold onto their faith in love and their loyalty to each other despite their individual complications during their decades of separation. Therefore, I can assure the readers that Zoe & John will eventually reunite in the second book.


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