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3.6 out of 5 stars8
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 19 March 2016
First Impression of the Book: The first thing to mention about this book is that it is written by a historian, so it is a historical account of uranium from discovery through to present day application. This means readers looking for a more scientific account of uranium will need to look elsewhere. Great book though! Well researched and deeply interesting.

Summary Of The Book:

Tom Zoellner is a dedicated author. TZ took uranium and painted a massive picture of its history, its applications and the many people that have been affected by or have come to appreciate/fear uranium and its potential for destruction or life giving energy.

I will mention again that this is a history book more than a scientific account, there are pieces about the science behind uranium but as TZ admits he is not that familiar with science himself so its put to one side to focus on the factual side of uranium.

This book starts in the Democratic Republic of Congo where in 1915 uranium was found at a site called 'Shinkolobwe' which is one of the biggest deposits of naturally occurring uranium in the world and contributed most of the uranium used in the second world war in the atomic bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

TZ digs deep (excuse the pun) into the rich history surrounding uranium and the many strange and wonderful characters that started popping up when it was revealed that uranium was very special indeed and was worth lots of money to the right people.

Uranium covers 3 main aspects of the history of the element in question. TZ starts with the use of uranium in a war setting, talking about the Manhattan Project and the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. TZ then goes on to talk about the cultural aspects of uranium, the slave labour, the poverty and eventually the salvation it brought to countries around the world. Finally the book focuses on the political side of uranium, what countries did to stay in the war game, the trading, fighting, espionage and the diplomatic decisions countries had to make to keep everyone safe.

The writing style of TZ is great, clear, concise and he writes with plenty of narrative which suits me well as its the best way for me to take more information in. TZ also brings in other fun factual treats in to keep a lighter side as uranium is an intense subject. For example he talks about H.G Wells and his prediction of the atomic bomb and the reason why American money is called dollars, fun little 'ahh' moments that break up some of the heavier sections.

There are several other areas worth mentioning. TZ gives some insight into the apocalyptic side of cultures as well which were very interesting, as well as some apocalyptic views from the scientific community from people like Sigmund Freud. Also there is a chilling account from W. L . Lawrence who was present at the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki. I found the piece about the Nevada nuclear testing grounds in America unbelievable in the sense that how can people get away with these decisions but that is beyond me and my little blog :D.

TZ has written a well rounded, thorough tome on the uranium and the affect it has had on the world, there are many great stories, some very sad and even a little anger inducing...but on the whole TZ has nailed it, he travelled around the world and had his head stuck in hundreds of books to put this book together and to make sure he got his facts right and it makes it totally worth reading.


If you enjoyed this please add me on twitter for more updates and news about lots of books :D @AlwTrustInBooks. I have a page on Facebook and Goodreads to if you don't have twitter ;)
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on 2 February 2014
This book Is well written but doesn't really cut the mustard. The geopolitics of uranium will always be controversial and subject to change resulting in coup d'etats' or instability vv as on 2010. You will not find uranium in Hyde Park. It is in the most isolated areas of the planet. How can it be that the western world benefits from cheap nuclear power electricity to the detriment of the less developed countries where standard electricity not available to all where people are dying from radioactive exposure.There are no shortage of takers for exploration of Uranium save that the costs of corruption keep going up and the cost of the commodity down. This equates to poverty for the countries concerned being fuelled by certain western multinationals. No names no pack drill.
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on 15 March 2013
I found the early chapters fascinating and that the interest tailed off in the later part of the book. It was a revelation to know how much of this dangerous element is unaccounted for.
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on 6 February 2016
As a geologist and former employee of The Uranium Institute (Senior Research Officer and Secretary of its Supply and Demand Committee from 1980 to 1985) I found that I couldn't put this excellent and well-written book down. It provided a well-researched history of the industry, informing me of several things I wasn't aware of, and filling in many gaps in my pre-existing knowledge, as well as bringing me up to date on what happened in the industry as far as 2009. It also reminded me of several visits I made to many of the facilities described in the book.
I fully recommend it.
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on 17 June 2013
A moderately interesting book which supplements more detailed histories such as Richard Rhodes' accounts of the nuclear age. Far too sketchy to be an adequate stand-alone account. Good detail on the mining of uranium around the world.
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on 27 June 2015
This book is okay but tended to stray from the main subject of uranium by reading more like a travel log , this is of course just my impression , other people may find this book great .
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on 31 July 2009
This is a great story about a very special rock, uranium, which was formed by petrified foliage millions of years ago, and continues to breed a deadly form of energy. Tom Zoellner's factual book reads like a gripping novel. He breathes vigorous life into a saga that could have been a dry political and geological tale. His beautifully crafted story puts uranium into its complex context as a key protagonist on the world stage. Zoellner's reporting ranges from the Congo to Nazi Germany to the war in Iran, with vivid information at every turn. getAbstract found this meticulously researched book exceptionally interesting, and recommends it to anyone interested in discovering how society entered the atomic age and how it is muddling through.
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on 7 July 2009
A decent enough book, but why oh why does the narrator adopt a poor Dick Van Dyke imitation for every passage with a British player. I was cringing so much I lost the plot on several occasions.
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