An entertaining companion to Tom Schachtman’s Terrors and Marvels (2002) and other entries in the little library of war-born...




Where would Virgin Atlantic and the Gap be without Hitler and Khrushchev?

War breeds technological innovation; that much is well known. London-based science writer Hambling takes a leisurely ramble through the back pages of WWII and Cold War history to show how ordinary consumers—to say nothing of armies—have benefited from martial inventions, a story that is less well known. Take, to name an even earlier example, the Burberry trench coat: A fashion favorite ever since it was introduced in 1901 as a British army raincoat, it still contains epaulettes for holding caps and gloves and rings on which to string grenades. And then there’s the T-shirt, born in 1942 as the US Navy’s T-type undershirt, which, after the war ended, “went back to civilian life with the returning veterans, and has gone from strength to strength ever since.” In just such a process, commercial jet aircraft were born of battle; among the other democratizing effects of WWII was the drop in airfare, for, as Hambling reckons, to fly from London to Australia before the war would have cost something like $35,000 in today’s money, whereas after the war “long-haul travel was no longer for the leisured classes.” In similar vein, the modern DVD resulted from the long and maniacal quest for the ultimate “death ray,” which is also yielding a variety of nonlethal, large-scale, Taser-like weapons that one day police squads and armies will be merrily using on crowds of rioters and insurgents. Each advance in technology, Hambling shows, has its upside and downside: Ground-penetrating radar, for instance, has enabled rescuers to find skiers buried in avalanches and detectives the bodies of long-disappeared murder victims, but kindred millimeter wave imaging devices may one day soon show the world just what’s in your pocket. And that would be a boon for entrepreneurs: As Hambling remarks, “Given the tabloids’ willingness to pay big money for scandal stories, it is easy to see how you could recoup the cost of an MMW imager fairly quickly.”

An entertaining companion to Tom Schachtman’s Terrors and Marvels (2002) and other entries in the little library of war-born technology.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7867-1561-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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