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The Bomb: A Life [Hardcover]

Gerard DeGroot
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Jun 2004

Before the Bomb, there were simply 'bombs', lower case. Bombs are as old as hatred itself, but it was the twentieth century, one hundred years of almost incredible scientific progress, that saw the birth of the Bomb, the human race's most powerful and most destructive discovery. Since 8.14 a.m. 6 August 1945, when a lone B-29 aircraft appeared over the skies of Hiroshima and destroyed a city, the Bomb has haunted our dreams and threatened our existence.

In this magisterial account, Gerard DeGroot gives us the life story of the Bomb, from its birth in the turn-of-the-century physics labs of Europe to a childhood in the New Mexico desert of the 1940s, from adolescence and early adulthood in Nagasaki and Bikini, Australia and Siberia to unsettling maturity in test sites and missile silos all over the globe. The Bomb killed hundreds of thousands outright, condemned many more to lingering deaths and made vast tracts of land unfit for life. For decades it dominated the psyches of millions, becoming a touchstone of popular culture, celebrated or decried in mass political movements, films, songs and books.

DeGroot has captured the Bomb's short but vastly significant life in all its scope, providing us with an astonishingly vivid portrait of the times and the people - from Teller to Oppenheimer, Truman to Reagan - whose legacy still governs our world. By turns horrific, awe-inspiring and blackly comic, The Bomb is never less than compelling. For there is as yet no sign of the Bomb's retirement. And its death might be ours too.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First printing. edition (17 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224062328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224062329
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 621,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘A page-turning biography of mankind’s most terrifying creation, this disturbs, amuses, enlightens and, most importantly, makes you think twice.’ -- The Word

‘Superb… Thoroughly researched, beautifully written, and irradiated by a wry sense of humour, [The Bomb] is absolutely gripping.’ -- A. C. Grayling, Literary Review

Book Description

An extraordinary, compelling account of the life and times of the atom bomb, from one of the country's leading historians (2003-06-23)

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bomb from 20,000 Feet 3 July 2005
"The Bomb: A Life" is a highly readable history of nuclear weapons, from the Manhattan Project through the end of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear terrorism. I picked the book up on a whim and soon found that DeGroot's style kept me turning the pages.
DeGroot's book is a fairly high level overview of the development of the atomic bomb and its even more horrific successor, the hydrogen bomb. It also explores the challenges of integrating these earthshaking weapons into military and political doctrine, with a special emphasis on the formative period of the 1950s and early sixties.
But "The Bomb" is more than just a military or geopolitical history. Degroot gives equal time to domestic developments provoked by the Bomb, such as disarmament movements, the grim fate of "downwinders," and artifacts of bomb-driven cultural history like Bert the Turtle, "Dr. Stangelove," Doomtown, "The Day After," and the Doomsday Clock. In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of the book is its description of the interplay between nuclear weapons and society--how the bomb changed culture, and how culture responded by changing the bomb.
DeGroot is an equal opportunity critic, and he muses about both the excesses of nuclear warriors and the quixotic struggles of those who pressed for disarmament. In the end, he demurs--"a final verdict on the Bomb is impossible."
If you are looking for a readable overview of the development and cultural impact of nuclear weapons, "The Bomb: A Life" is a good and sobering place to start.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complements both Rhodes books 3 July 2004
By Nozza
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having read both "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" and "Dark Sun" I approached this book with caution - I wondered how could anyone hope to add anything significant, or new, to history of the bomb?
This book is more of a social history of, rather than an analysis of, the development of the bomb. Eminently readable, this book complements the other "authoritative" texts, gleaning new light on a disturbing history.
Throughout the book we are reminded of the horrors of war, and the horrors of using nuclear weapons.
This book gets my vote for non-fiction book of the year.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 30 Oct 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A throughly engaging and well written book which deals mostly with the socially and political aspects of The Bomb. In the process it does a very good job of highlighting some of the absurd decisions that were made in its development and how we came to have several thousands warheads on each side. The authour does offer criticism but this is even handed and isn't just directed at either the pro-nuke or anti-nuke and is really of a politically neutral nature.

Overall an excellent and informative read and well recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 28 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Outstanding appraisal of the political and social impact of nuclear weapons since the atom was first split.. Extremely well written and is knowledgeable and detailed without being at all "academic". Degroot manages to intersperse some pretty grim subject matter with hilariously funny moments and anecdotes, which had me laughing out loud. Its frightening to read how scientists and politicians managed to manipulate each other for their own ends and how we, the genersl public, have been treated ss gullible idiots....especially when it comes to civil defence. The science stuff is fascinating and the physics background easily accessible to the non scientist. Best non fiction book I've read for a long time.
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