on 2 February 2004
Within the covers of this book Michael Light has collected official photographs from 100 of the 215 nuclear explosions set off in the atmosphere by the United States Government between 1945 and 1962: the point where they began carrying out tests underground. Shot entirely for scientific and archival purposes, perhaps the first thing to say about these photographs is that they have an absolutely staggering beauty. The notion of a fascinated child playing with fire springs to mind, along with the revulsion of what a thing of such beauty can do to a child's delicate skin. But even confined between the carefully designed pages of this book, regarded with a cognisance of the fact that the most recent was made more than forty years ago, their sheer force quickly gives reason to Oppenheimer’s famous quote from Hindu scripture: “I am become death, shatterer of worlds”. Oppenheimer, the polymath who alongside his scientific education found time to study Greek, Latin, French, German, Classics and Eastern philosophy, was apparently not quite the man for melodrama that those unfamiliar with direct sight of a nuclear blast might assume. Less than a month after he witnessed the detonation of the world’s first nuclear bomb in the New Mexico desert on 16th July 1945, as demonstrations of how the world had changed, two Japanese cities ceased to exist, and on 10th August 1945 the Japanese absolute surrender brought about the end of the World War that had accelerated the development of nuclear weaponry. But the nuclear genie could never be put back in the bottle.
Atom bombs it transpires all had names. Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, is described in the book as “ a crude gun-type uranium device”, which caused 201,468 casualties while only actually harnessing 1.3% of the atomic energy in its core. By 1952, seven years later and still twelve months prior to the death of Stalin, technology had marched significantly forward with the testing of a bomb cosily called Mike at Enewetak Atoll, bombs having now become too big to test on the American mainland. Mike, a 10.4 megaton, experimental liquid deuterium bomb, had an explosive force greater than the entire combined ordinance used in both the World Wars. Looking back now the word insanity creeps to mind. History continues to debate the point we came nearest to blowing ourselves from the planet; but the statistics remain terrifying.
In some ways 100 Suns might be said to stand before the world as evidence of the arrogance of the human race. Robert Oppenheimer would have approved of this. He opposed the development of the thermo-nuclear Hydrogen bomb, but at the instruction of President Truman continued working on the project. In assembling 100 Suns, Michael Light shows a considerable self discipline. The Bomb after all, in all it’s immensity, horror and beauty, encourages the utterance of rhetoric. In avoiding such opportunities as introductory essays Light, and editor Mark Holborn, have produced a very much more powerful message.
on 10 May 2004
I have flicked through this book a number of times and each time it makes me think about why these weapons were built. What are they for, really? So they were built never to be used, huh? hmmm, never did understand that. Anyway, this book really does provoke some thought; utter destruction can be so beautiful. And once you've looked at the pics, read the history of the arms race in the Appendix and see just how big the so-called 'missile gap' really was...
on 6 June 2005
A wonderfully presented pictorial guide showing almost half of the American atmospheric atomic & h-bomb detonations, dividing tests between the continental USA and pacific proving grounds. It's a large book containing the photos and individual test descriptions, giving you a rare insight to the destructive power of man's most powerful deterent to date. The closing sections of the book gives a guide to each detonation featured plus a chronological history of US weapon invantory. If you think you have all the books on this subject and don't have this one, you're missing out!
on 18 October 2003
The casual observer of this book will see 100 images of above ground nuclear detonations. Some of the images are spectacular, some are technically poor. The printing quality is excellent: using the finest paper and ink but if you only value this book for the quality of the images then you're missing the point. This book is evidence of the staggering destructive power of the nuclear weapon and it is a reminder that lurking in the background is a terrible force awaiting its time. This book is a warning and a document of the truth. Nuclear tests still take place, out of sight and usually unpublicised but '100 Suns' reveals a time when The Bomb was NOT hidden and allowed it's full hellish impact upon our world. Be scared!
on 8 September 2004
I found Michael Light's "100 Suns" purely by chance in the Tate Modern's art shop.
I almost bought it purely because of the fantastic, remarkable photos. The book contains 100 atomic bomb tests from 1945 to 1962 by the United States.
I have always had a fascination of the visual beauty of atomic explosions and the science behind them.
I do hope this does not sound peverse, (I am not attracted to the awesome destructive power).
The wonderful luxurious sombre black paper quality, shows this to be a real postwar masterpiece.
There is page after page of these incredible photographs of various kilotons and megatons exploding in the middle of a desert.
Michael White has put together this wonderful photographic record of nuclear splendour.
The book retails at £30- but I was ever so pleased to see Amazon selling it for £21, wooooow!!!!
I urge you to buy this book and treasure it.
on 20 May 2009
...so said Robert Oppenheimer- who provides the name of this book, clipped from a description of the Trinity test explosion. This is a truly gorgeous book, that sits proudly on my coffee table. I find myself gently thumbing through it when I am angry, sad, uptight or relaxed. These are truly images of beauty, even if they are taken for other reasons.
About halfway however, it hits you that these are tools of destruction. Tools designed to kill watch hands dead, to vapourise and rearrange matter. It is this omnipotence that is captured so very well in just the images, simply captioned with a date and name.
...my favourite? About halfway there is a shot in a trench, with soldiers ducking from the glare. Radioactive dust is visible, a nuclear snow. So beautiful.
on 30 September 2014
Scary, Beautiful, Stunning, Awesome, Horrific, Awe Inspiring are just some of the words you could use to describe this book.
Let's just pray that the energy contained within remains in the pages of a book and is never unleashed on our fragile and beautiful little planet.
Educational, thought provoking and a work of art.
Very Highly Recommended.
on 11 June 2010
Some really great images in here - I particularly like the images taken using a high-speed camera a few microseconds after detonation. it's interesting how varied the images are and how the size of each blast seems to have little to do with the look of the resulting image. Bare in mind that it's a book formed purely of the images. I would have liked to know some technical background to each test, where that data is now available. Saying that, I can appreciate that the book aims to explore the subject on a purely aesthetic level.