Command and Control Paperback – 3 Jul 2014
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Like Don DeLillo's Underworld, C&C's narrative weaves multiple points of view and real-life testimonies together into a people's history of the Cold War. Unlike Underworld, C&C is not a work of fiction. That point might need repeating. What happens in fiction must always be plausible, true to an ordered sequence of events. What happens in life is plausible only because it happens. How many people would believe a novel in which any of the following happened?
'The BMEWS [radar complex] indicated that the Soviets had launched an all-out missile attack against North America. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were on the phone, awaiting confirmation. The United States had only minutes to respond. [...] A subsequent investigation found the cause of the computer glitch. The BMEWS site at Thule had mistakenly identified the moon, slowly rising over Norway, as dozens of long-range missiles launched from Siberia.'
'The Mark 6 was a large weapon, about eleven feet long and five feet in diameter, and as Kulka tried to peek above it, he inadvertently grabbed grabbed the manual bomb release for support. The Mark 6 suddenly dropped onto the bomb bay doors, and Kulka fell on top of it. A moment later, the eight-thousand-pound bomb broke through the doors. Kulka slid off it, got hold of something in the open bomb bay, and held on tight. [...Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a thoroughly engaging history of how we (just) avoided the nuclear warehouses leading to nuclear war. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Anthony Rodwell
A frightening account of the things that went wrong with H-Bombs and the aircraft/missiles carrying them during the cold war.Published 4 months ago by jimbo66
I read the reviews for this book and thought I might like it. I was right.
The book mixes the historical timeline with a single historical event, but it does so in a... Read more
A disturbing book. Schlosser has carried out an impressive amount of research into the development of nuclear weapons, although things inevitably get sketchier the closer he gets... Read morePublished 4 months ago by S Litton