Cliché-filled take on a compelling story.

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ATOMIC AMERICA

HOW A DEADLY EXPLOSION, A FEARED ADMIRAL, AND RUMORS OF A BIZARRE LOVE TRIANGLE CHANGED THE COURSE OF NUCLEAR HISTORY

Romance, intrigue and science converge in an interesting though blandly told tale of the first fatal nuclear accident in the United States.

Three people were killed when a military test reactor exploded on Jan. 3, 1961, in Idaho’s Lost River Desert. Through extensive archival research and interviews, Tucker (The Great Starvation Experiment, 2006, etc.) reconstructs the specifics of an accident few Americans recall. Although the 1979 partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island is better known, the author makes a persuasive case that the Idaho explosion played a significant role in the development of nuclear power in America. Seeing this story as a morality tale with heroes and villains, the author is especially critical of Admiral Hyman Rickover, who used his considerable stature within the Navy to squelch anyone who questioned “his powerful advocacy of nuclear propulsion…to the exclusion of all other forms of sea power.” Tucker scants rumors that an adulterous affair had sparked enmity between two reactor crewmen who were killed, though he does acknowledge that they had clashed ever since arriving at the site 15 months earlier. Debates over the value of the nuclear navy, combined with political and personal maneuverings, could have produced a riveting, genre-crossing account—if, say, Tom Clancy and Danielle Steele had collaborated on it. Unfortunately, Tucker lacks their storytelling flair; his workmanlike prose sometimes makes it a chore to get through the text.

Cliché-filled take on a compelling story.

Pub Date: March 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4433-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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