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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2004
The title of this review say it all really. If you are thinking of buyng this book on the strength of Pratchett's name alone, you should be aware that this is a twenty year old book which has been re-released with an introduction by TP. If you are expecting something co-written by Pratchett, featuring magic and disc-shaped worlds, and that is all you really like, you will be disappointed.
It all smells like a bit of a marketing ploy by the publishers to resurrect an old title, which is a shame really because it is not a bad book, even if it does show its age a bit. I particularly liked the idea of someone playing Space Invaders on a computer which has a printer as its only output. Basically its an old-fashioned farce, based in a nuclear facility, which will strike a chord of recognition with anyone who has worked in the British public sector in any sort of capacity.
The important thing is to judge this book on its own merits, ignoring the red herring of Pratchett's name on the cover.
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on 22 June 2001
Have you ever wondered what life was like inside Britains most secret Nuclear Establishment? Well now you can find out: Langford, himself a former Aldermaston inmate, builds this tale of innocence, incompetance, corruption and sheer bloody mindedness around an unlikely hero, Scientist Roy Tappen. Roy just wants an old filing cabinet for his magazines; Unfortunately the cleaners have left him a little something in the bottom drawer and Roy is now a member of the nuclear club. Much mental effort is expended and beer drunk as he tries to get this particular egg back into the chicken coop without raising the suspicions of the flat footed, yet blindly obstinate, MoD police. All of the old Civil Service types are represented here from the youthful Scientific Officer to the time serving Bureaucrat. All living out their lives in the down at heel surroundings of a leading scientific establishment. The home science experiment is fun too. Langford denies that the fictitious establishment depicted here is not Aldermaston. He is lying. Roy Tappen works in Langford's old Terrapin Hut (a 1950's Portacabin). I know, I knocked it down. The Leaky Establishment has the dubious honour of being the most borrowed book from the Aldermaston library. (And you thought we only read Science Journals)
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on 24 April 2002
In the Introduction Terry Pratchett says that this was a book he wanted to write. It certainly has the usual Pratchett trade marks - characters who get into unlikely but amusing situations, stereotypes of people in high positions but with little common sense and completely mad and unlikely events told in a deadpan fashion. Unfortunately the actual characters are instantly forgetable - I even kept forgetting the name of the 'hero' - and after a while I wasn't really interested in what would happen next. In fact half way through I put it down and read another book before going back to it. I do wish that Pratchett HAD written it, with that plot it would have been a winner. It's made me realise just how good HIS books are when compared to others of the same genre.
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on 24 February 2002
I wish I could say that when I read this book about the gross mismanagement and frustrations experienced by scientists at Britain's Nuclear Establishment that I thought it unbelievable sci-fi. But I cannot. For I have personally experienced over many years similar goings-on in interactions between R&D technical staff and our mis-managing managers in American industry. The Leaky Establishment approaches the serious and potentially dangerous nuclear issues with wit and humor, which brings great comic relief to everyday life. This book is also much reminiscent of another marvelous, hilarious satire on R&D life, entitled, "MANGEMENT BY VICE" by C.B. DON. Although it describes project mismanagement and other episodes in R&D life within American high-tech industry, which fully supports my own scientist-manager experiences, the managerial character traits do seem to be all too similar. The authors of these two books have hit the nail on the head and it all shows that mismanagement is a global problem indeed! These are two great books that reveal the hidden truths and are highly enjoyable and a must-read!
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on 5 September 2007
I read this 19 years ago and still remember it vividly. It has a distinctly english sense of humour combining the funnier parts of 'A Very Peculiar Practice' with the deranged logic of the civil service in 'Yes Minister' transposed to a nuclear weapons research laboratory. The ineptitude of management, the stifling of worker creativity, the institutionalisation of practices, in fact the whole of public sector life is revealed in its painful amateurishness. One of the funniest books I've ever read. Highly recommended.
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on 10 May 2001
Based on Langford's own experiences as part of the UK's nuclear missile research division, this is a strikingly funny account of missing warheads, incompetent security and general unlikely-but-all-too-believable near-apocalyptic farce. The workers at the Establishment are as cack-handed as your own workmates, but they're juggling nukes. Great stuff.
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on 26 March 2016
If anybody says it's not really like this, they've never worked there!
"A friend of mine" once worked there.
So much of this still rings true.
The technology may have changed.
But I can see the inspiration for the story in the way the site still runs ...
Except I'm sure something slightly smaller than a football couldn't find its way beyond the fence nowadays...
This was a great read with a comic slant inspired by the site. If you think of the civil service bureaucracy that made "Yes, Minister" funny, then this has a similar root.
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on 20 January 2013
It might not be written by Terry Pratchett, but thanks to his forward and endorsement of the book, I bought it.
No Pratchett endorsement, and I wouldn't have known it existed. Thanks Terry!
Its written and set in the '80's which definitely shows, but in a very nice way.
Highly recommendable farce about the nuclear industry in the UK and the expected inefficiencies and paranoia of certain government organizations of that time... Not that its ever really improved.
Now I need to read more books by David Langford!
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on 22 August 2007
This is a humorous account of everyday life in a nuclear weapons research establishment, which suffers from the kinds of problems that beset any organization, plus those that come with high security and nuclear weapons. It makes an entertaining read while being at the same time curiously believable, and achieves a rather satisfying ending.

The book is by David Langford. Crediting Terry Pratchett as co-author is a silly error by Amazon; the cover indicates clearly that Pratchett has contributed only an introduction.
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on 25 August 2015
This book is in the Great British tradition of farce. What is delightfully alarming about it is that I can easily believe that it's all true, and I think that's what the author wants to convey. It is easy to read and most enjoyable.
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