British physicist Arthur Terrell is the first to acknowledge the chronic label faced by nuclear fusion, that it is perennially the next big thing on the energy front, without getting any closer to fruition. But he, like the fusion pioneers he interviews at length in ”The Star Builders: Nuclear Fusion and the Race to Power the Planet,” is dazzled by this energy source’s progress over the decades, but especially recently. According to his research, the dauntingly difficult task of building a star in a physical structure has advanced by orders of magnitude. Having read about nuclear fusion in the 1950s, when it was first heralded with great fanfare, I have some knowledge but I was glad to learn more, and Terrell is a smooth enough writer. If he is not a riveting stylist, if he bounces too often between enthusiasm and scepticism, if the non-technical explanations of what is plainly a highly technical field still left me somewhat baffled … well, perhaps my eventual lack of engagement exposed a flaw in my mind or attitudes, but in the end, I found The Star Builders to be a diverting read that fell short of compelling.