DARK SUN: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes

DARK SUN: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb

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Appearances to the contrary, this is not a remake of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Rhodes's very successful technical chronicle of the Manhattan Project. In that book, which was honored with a National Book Award, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and a Pulitzer Prize, Rhodes stuck closely to his topic. Here, it is not until halfway through the book, literally, that he begins to talk specifically about the hydrogen bomb. Up to then he mainly discusses Soviet atomic espionage and the early history of the Soviet atomic bomb program, a subject covered much more authoritatively and concisely in David Holloway's Stalin and the Bomb (1994). One has the impression that Rhodes just wants to show off what he has learned from the newly opened Soviet archives. Only well into the book does it become clear that what mainly interests him is the battle between J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller over the development of the hydrogen bomb and the direction national policy would take in the 1950s: Their battle for the soul of the American public was Oppenheimer's tragic undoing, stripped him of his security clearances, and removed him from US policy-making; Teller's semi-Pyrrhic victory left him a virtual pariah in the world of physics. Rhodes brings to that story sound judgment, a sharp eye for intrinsically fascinating detail, and--not least--a nice way with words. His down-to-earth manner also leads Rhodes to nose out little-remarked nuggets, telling us, for example, that the famous atomic spy Klaus Fuchs and mathematician John von Neumann filed a patent together for the H-bomb in 1946. This big book is not necessarily the best place to get the big picture. But who cares? Rhodes manages to fit in a wealth of interesting detail without worrying too much about how it all hangs together.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1995
ISBN: 0684824140
Page count: 736pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster