This is a book for extreme experts: academics, nuclear strategy buffs, and the occasional pundit in search of its peculiar logic. Forgive my naivete, but it also exemplifies why academia is viewed by so many as a boring world of, well, extreme experts of recondite trivia - even when it deals with the potential destruction of industrial civilization. In my view, this book utterly fails to cross over to the interested non-specialist or those who are not writing a dissertation but just want a good read. I never would have cracked this if it wasn't for work.
That being said, the book summarises an absoulutely enormous amount of scholarship and the thinking of the mysterious "wizards" who argued in little offices in the Pentagon for this type of bomb, that type of missile or artillery shell, and this type of treaty. Fortunately, a lot of this is now more history with the end of the Cold War and the arms race, but it still appears like a bizarre parallel universe of microeconomics applied to massiave destructive capabilites with a cold rationality and words like "deterrence" and "mutual assured destruction." Alas, very little of the political context or the human drama is covered in its quirky detail, so don't seek that here. The prose is clear, if a bit like a massive vanilla milkshake when you read it in one sitting (as I had to). I learned from this, but simply did not enjoy it past the first chapter or even the introduction. The achievement is inarguable, but this book is like a tough home work assignment in undergraduate school.
Recommended for academic purposes, but not for the interested layman.