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Command and Control Paperback – 3 Jul 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 140 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (3 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141037911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141037912
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

So damnably readable. It drives the vision of a world trembling on the edge of a fatal precipice deep into your mind ... a piece of work of the deepest import, with the multilayered density of an ambitiously conceived novel (John Lloyd Financial Times)

Do you really want to read about the thermonuclear warheads that are still aimed at the city where you live? Do you really need to know about the appalling security issues that have dogged nuclear weapons in the 70 years since their invention? Yes, you do. In Schlosser's hands it is a reading treat ... he's a natural genius (Jonathan Franzen Guardian, Books of the Year)

Part techno-thriller, part careful historical investigation ... beautifully written and impressively researched (Gerard DeGroot Daily Telegraph)

Brilliant, gripping, chilling (Steven Shapin London Review of Books)

The author of Fast Food Nation does for the American nuclear industry what he did for industrial food production (Economist, Books of the Year)

Eric Schlosser detonates a truth bomb in Command and Control (Vanity Fair)

Deeply reported, deeply frightening . . . a techno-thriller of the first order (Los Angeles Times)

An excellent journalistic investigation of the efforts made since the first atomic bomb was exploded, outside Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, to put some kind of harness on nuclear weaponry. By a miracle of information management, Schlosser has synthesized a huge archive of material, including government reports, scientific papers, and a substantial historical and polemical literature on nukes, and transformed it into a crisp narrative covering more than fifty years of scientific and political change. And he has interwoven that narrative with a hair-raising, minute-by-minute account of an accident at a Titan II missile silo in Arkansas, in 1980, which he renders in the manner of a techno-thriller . . . Command and Control is how nonfiction should be written (Louis Menand The New Yorker)

A devastatingly lucid and detailed new history of nuclear weapons in the U.S. . . . fascinating (Lev Grossman Time)

Command and Control ranks among the most nightmarish books written in recent years; and in that crowded company it bids fair to stand at the summit. It is the more horrific for being so incontrovertibly right and so damnably readable. Page after relentless page, it drives the vision of a world trembling on the edge of a fatal precipice deep into your reluctant mind . . . a work with the multilayered density of an ambitiously conceived novel . . . Schlosser has done what journalism does at its best when at full stretch: he has spent time - years - researching, interviewing, understanding and reflecting to give us a piece of work of the deepest import (Financial Times)

Perilous and gripping . . . Schlosser skillfully weaves together an engrossing account of both the science and the politics of nuclear weapons safety . . . The story of the missile silo accident unfolds with the pacing, thrill and techno details of an episode of 24 (San Francisco Chronicle)

Disquieting but riveting . . . fascinating . . . Schlosser's readers (and he deserves a great many) will be struck by how frequently the people he cites attribute the absence of accidental explosions and nuclear war to divine intervention or sheer luck rather than to human wisdom and skill. Whatever was responsible, we will clearly need many more of it in the years to come (New York Times Book Review)

Easily the most unsettling work of nonfiction I've ever read, Schlosser's six-year investigation of America's 'broken arrows' (nuclear weapons mishaps) is by and large historical-this stuff is top secret, after all-but the book is beyond relevant. It's critical reading in a nation with thousands of nukes still on hair-trigger alert . . . Command and Control reads like a character-driven thriller as Schlosser draws on his deep reporting, extensive interviews, and documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act to demonstrate how human error, computer glitches, dilution of authority, poor communications, occasional incompetence, and the routine hoarding of crucial information have nearly brought about our worst nightmare on numerous occasions (Mother Jones)

A powerful mix of history, politics, and technology, told with impressive authority (Independent)

Eric Schlosser brings the investigative rigour of his big hit Fast Food Nation to this overview of our global nuclear arsenal (Herald)

About the Author

Eric Schlosser is the author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness, as well as the co-author of a children's book, Chew on This. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, the Nation, and Vanity Fair, and he was an executive producer on the films Fast Food Nation and There Will Be Blood and a co-producer of the documentary Food Inc.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was expecting to enjoy this more than I did. There's a lot of interesting material presented in here, but the way it's presented I think is not ideal. There is the main "story" of one specific Titan II accident in Arkansas which is weaved through the entire book, interspersed with smaller anecdotes of other nuclear accidents AND a fairly exhaustive history of US nuclear weapons policy and politics. The result to my mind is a book that is disjointed and at times a bit of a slog. There are so many names and characters to remember from the main Arkansas story, that each time I was taken away from it for 20 or 30 pages to explore some bit of policy history from a different era, when I came back to the story I couldn't remember who was who or where they were (which is critical because there are literally dozens of people in this story who move around from place to place over the course of the emergency).

At the same time the parallel history about weapons policy and protocol - which branch of the executive or military had control of the weapons, who could issue the launch order, how those orders were ratified, what safety measures were in place around protocol, what safety devices were put on the weapons - the exhaustive and detailed history of all these things, and the political back-and-forth that went around it, is honestly pretty overwhelming and dull at times.

I learned quite a bit about the ancient history of command and control of US nuclear weapons but there's virtually nothing at all about the past 25 years and so the whole thing feels like an interesting but slightly irrelevant historical document, even though weapons proliferation and the threat of these weapons being used by non-state actors is greater than ever before.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Got this for my uncle for christmas many moons ago, heard great stuff and he said he loved it. I did wrap it in tinfoil which I did get moaned at about though, but that's not the book's fault (i think)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellently written and researched, could not put it down. Written in such a way as to be not only accessible but also enjoyable even with no great interest in the subject matter.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fantastic book, incredibly well researched and very well written. The weaving of different aspects of history together makes for a compelling and unputdownable read. Very highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Reads like a novel. Excellent account of events that I lived through but didn't appreciate at the time the risks that the world was facing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent read for anyone at all interested in the subject, and full of fascinating details. Well worth the money.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was born in 1958, so I guess I'm a Cold War baby. I can't say I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, but as a teenager, and a young adult I was aware that nuclear oblivion was no more than the push of a button away. I took a history degree, and grew into adulthood as a supporter of nuclear deterrence, I liked the idea that war was so terrible that nobody dared risk starting one, even if peace came at the price of fear and paranoia I thought this was better than the mass slaughter of two world wars. I considered individuals and groups who called for nuclear disarmament to be idealistic, and naïve. Furthermore I never gave a thought to the safety, security, and reliability of the bombs which kept the peace. A hydrogen bomb going off by accident, being pinched by terrorists , or being detonated as a result of a software glitch never occurred to me. Atom bombs were safe, they were fail safe, everybody knew that.
Bloody Hell! was I wrong!!
If Mr Schlosser's book had appeared in 1980 I don't know what it's effect on public opinion would have been, but I am sure that it would have persuaded many people that the gravest risk of nuclear oblivion did not come from superpower rivalry, but from an accident resulting in the detonation of a bomb, or some panic stricken service man launching his nuclear weapons as a consequence of receiving false information. This is the gist of Command and Control, atomic weapons are not safe, the command and control mechanisms which determine their use are not infallible, and this fine book provides dozens of instances where the danger of a nuclear detonation happening was seconds away, and in almost every instance it was a combination of good luck, skill, heroism, and divine intervention that prevented a catastrophe.
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Brilliantly written. Fascinating!
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