A chilling portrait of rocket scientists and cold warriors at work.




The famous satellite’s shiny metal orb reflects the entire nerve-racking history of Soviet/American relations during the Cold War.

Brzezinski (Fortress America: On the Front Lines of Homeland Security—An Inside Look at the Coming Surveillance State, 2004, etc.) brings years of experience as a Moscow-based journalist to bear on his subject, the very earliest days of the space race. His exhaustive research among newly opened archives in both Moscow and Washington is evident. He begins with a terse, dramatic description of a V-2 rocket attack on London before moving on to the cutthroat contest between former allies to find, isolate and capture Hitler’s rocket technology, including the visionary scientists like Werner Von Braun (see Michael J. Neufeld’s Von Braun, 2007, for more information) who created it. The story is told in fast-paced, parallel narratives with the taut undertones of a spy novel as Brzezinski intertwines the Sputnik program’s technical achievements with the global conflict growing between the emerging superpowers led by Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev. Though the author focuses primarily on events leading to the launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957, subsequent chapters cover the launch of Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite in February of 1958. In the process, Brzezinski demonstrates, America and Russia both changed drastically as a new culture of competition emerged. His anecdotes range from absurd (Von Braun and actor Ronald Reagan host a Disney program on “Tomorrowland”) to prescient (Eisenhower observes that a war waged with atomic missiles “would be just complete, indiscriminate devastation”) to terrifying (as Moscow detonates its first atomic bomb, General Curtis LeMay grumbles over the lost opportunity to completely destroy Russia with an anticipatory atomic attack). Extrapolating the space race’s impact on future technology, the author offers largely superfluous and obvious conclusions in the epilogue. Otherwise, his well-drawn exposé of this fundamental conflict is first-rate.

A chilling portrait of rocket scientists and cold warriors at work.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8147-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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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