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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book Review: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin, narrated by Roy Samuelson

I haven't read much (if any) YA nonfiction, so I thought I'd give this one a go and see what it's like. I wasn't in fact, very sure what the difference was. And while I still am not 100% sure why this is listed as YA, instead of adult, I guess it is laid out in a more straightforward way and might use slightly simpler language. But for listening, those two things both improve the experience. The only moment when I was aware that I was listening to a book geared younger, was when who General MacArthur was explained. Most adult books just assume you know who that is (and in fact, it was jarring to me, to have that little appositive explaining him. Not bad, just startling.)

The book begins with the story of a spy who gave away American secrets about the atomic bomb, and then goes back to give us the entire history of the bomb. It begins with the scientific discovery of fission, of physicists' realization of what that meant (it's not many steps to get to a bomb given the amount of power given off by a minuscule amount of fission-able matter). It quickly gets to Robert Oppenheimer and Los Alamos. And as they worked away, the German were also racing to make a bomb, and we were racing to prevent it. They were using a different method involving something called "heavy water" and Allied spies thought they could set the German back years if they could get to their source of heavy water.

Meanwhile the Soviets were recruiting spies among the physicists. (Funnily enough, one Brit later arrested was given a much lighter sentence because, at the time, the USSR was our ally, not our enemy. American laws however were not as forgiving.) And then after Fat Man and Short Boy were dropped on Japan, the Soviets became our enemy, and the spy recruitment intensified during the Cold War.

We'll never know what the outcome of WWII would have been if either the Germans had gotten the bomb before we did, or if we hadn't dropped it on Japan, but we work with the history we have, and the scientific and intelligence race to outwit our enemies (and occasional friends) is an awfully fascinating story.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer, but I listened to the audiobook which is published by Listening Library. I downloaded the eaudiobook from my library via Overdrive.

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