THE APOCALYPSE FACTORY

PLUTONIUM AND THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC AGE

A riveting history of a lesser-known Manhattan Project triumph that, like so many wartime triumphs, has lost its luster.

How Americans made the plutonium that went into the first atomic bomb.

Beginning a captivating, unnerving history, Seattle-based journalist Olson emphasizes that while uranium gets the headlines, plutonium makes up almost all of the thousands of bombs in arsenals around the world. In 1943, everyone in an immense southern Washington area received orders to move out within a month. Tens of thousands of workers poured in to build entire cities and infrastructure and then three nuclear reactors to produce plutonium and three huge factories to extract it. Olson delivers gripping accounts of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s construction, the iconic summer 1945 test in New Mexico, and the bombs’ destruction of Japanese cities. Hanford’s output peaked in the 1960s before obsolescence and overproduction took its toll. By the 1970s, most reactors had shut down. With the project’s declassification, the first historical accounts extolled its immense effort, technical accomplishments, and ultimate triumph, but time has produced more unsettling information—especially regarding the health effects, given that “Hanford had released far more radioactivity into the air, water, and soil than outsiders had known.” Until Hanford, no one had handled radioactive material on an industrial scale, and readers will be dismayed as Olson describes the results. In addition to the problems associated with radioactive gas, cooling water and factory chemicals flowed into the nearby Columbia River. Radioactive solid waste lay in open dumps until experts decided that this was a bad idea; then it was collected in huge steel containers with a predicted lifetime of 20 years, after which someone would surely find a better way to deal with it. Most are still there, corroded and leaking. Billions of dollars have been spent in a cleanup, but a huge area remains poisoned. If it’s any comfort, Kate Brown’s superb Plutopia (2013) reveals that the Soviet Union’s version of Hanford was worse.

A riveting history of a lesser-known Manhattan Project triumph that, like so many wartime triumphs, has lost its luster. (32 illustrations)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-63497-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

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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