This is a well crafted and detailed story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and in general it is an impressive effort by the authors - being almost 750 pages long. I guess in an era of sales hype I did find the book jacket inside notes a bit annoying in that the people marketing the book claim that this is the first comprehensive biography on Oppenheimer. Technically speaking one can debate that fine point, and perhaps it is true in narrow terms, but a quick GOOGLE search will show that there are many books and articles on Oppenheimer going back at least 40 years. Plus there have been books and articles on the Oppenheimer-Lawrence relationship. I had already read at least two books including the 1968 book Lawrence and Oppenheimer by Nuel Pharr Davis, and I read it decades ago, plus there are many others, so long ago that I now forget which book I read and which I did not, but I did read the Davis book and it had a lot of similar information.
Now for the present book, it is definitely a well researched and it is a comprehensive book that covers the mostly complete story from his birth to the end and his throat cancer. There are many excellent photographs, lots of notes, and much documentation. It is well written and well crafted as a book and presents the human side of the man along with all the political pressures.
In an era of The Patriot Act, I thought that the book had a number of very important points and lessons for humanity, and also the price of dissent in our free society. Here we follow the story of Oppenheimer and how his worked and sweated under a lot of pressure to make the first few weapons, but having made them he realized the implications and their danger. He was strongly against the next step - that of making the hydrogen bomb and thought the plutonium nukes were themselves dangerous enough. As we already knew in general, but perhaps not in the detail presented here in this new book, that his opposition to mega-bomb cost him his security clearance and tarnished his reputation. Oppenheimer - according to the present book - thought the hydrogen bomb would never be used since it would cause too much devastation and was a waste of money. But it was too big a concept for the military to ignore and it went forward. In retrospect he has been correct, in fact since Japan in 1945, almost 60 years ago, no nuclear weapon of any type has been used.
Some of the facts reviewed in the book seem to back up Oppenheimer's concern that things might get out of control. We learn that the US produced 70,000 nuclear weapons, almost one bomb for every 2000 people in the USSR, and the total cost was 5.5 trillion dollars. It is no wonder the USSR went broke as they tried to keep up. Also, that sum is about equal, but slightly less than the total US government debt today, a staggering number. Now, as Oppenheimer had feared the technology is spreading.
This is an excellent book on Oppenheimer, but ignore the hype, it is not the only book.
5 stars - great read.