Reviews for Bomb : The Race to Build-and Steal-The World's Most Dangerous Weapon


Booklist Reviews 2012 September #1
Using some of the same narrative techniques he used in the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction-winning The Notorious Benedict Arnold (2010), Sheinkin shapes the story of the Manhattan Project into a dense, complicated thriller that intercuts the action with the deftness of a Hollywood blockbuster. There are more characters than readers will be able to handle, but they'll follow the three main threads. The first is a tale of spy versus spy, as Soviet informants infiltrate America's Los Alamos laboratory. The second tracks the heroism of Knut Haukelid as he parachutes into Norway to destroy Germany's heavy water plant. Most amazing is Robert Oppenheimer's assemblage of the greatest scientific minds in the U.S. (aka "the world's largest collection of crackpots"), who under great duress design the most lethal weapon in history. Sheinkin's prose understandably favors plot machinations over character, and positioning photos in the back matter feels anticlimactic. Nonetheless, the painstakingly sourced narrative crackles and drives home the "strange mix of pride and horror" felt by the scientists who had just won the war--but lost something of equal worth. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
While comprehensive in its synthesis of the political, historical, and scientific aspects of the creation of the first nuclear weapon, this account focuses on an extremely alluring angle: the spies. Sheinkin maintains the pace of a thriller without betraying history or skipping over the science; writing with journalistic immediacy, he eschews editorializing. Photos help readers organize the events and players. Bib., ind.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #6
While comprehensive in his synthesis of the political, historical, and scientific aspects of the creation of the first nuclear weapon, Sheinkin focuses his account with an extremely alluring angle: the spies. The book opens in 1950 with the confession of Harry Gold -- but to what? And thus we flash back to Robert Oppenheimer in the dark 1930s, as he and readers are handed another question by the author: "But how was a theoretical physicist supposed to save the world?" Oppenheimer's realization that an atomic bomb could be created to use against Nazi Germany is coupled with the knowledge that the Germans must be working from the same premise, and the Soviets are close behind. We periodically return to Gold's ever-deepening betrayals as well as other acts of espionage, most excitingly the two stealth attacks on occupied Norway's Vemork power plant, where the Germans were manufacturing heavy water to use in their own nuclear program. As he did in the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner The Notorious Benedict Arnold (rev. 1/11), Sheinkin here maintains the pace of a thriller without betraying history (source notes and an annotated bibliography are exemplary) or skipping over the science; photo galleries introducing each section help readers organize the events and players. Writing with journalistic immediacy, the author eschews editorializing up through the chilling last lines: "It's a story with no end in sight. And, like it or not, you're in it." Index. roger sutton Copyright 2012 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 August #1
In late December 1938, German chemist Otto Hahn discovered that uranium atoms could be split, and just a few months later the race to build an atomic bomb was on. The story unfolds in three parts, covering American attempts to build the bomb, how the Soviets tried to steal American designs and how the Americans tried to keep the Germans from building a bomb. It was the eve of World War II, and the fate of the world was at stake, "[b]ut how was a theoretical physicist supposed to save the world?" It's a true spy thriller, ranging from the football stadium at the University of Chicago to the mountains of Norway, from the deserts of New Mexico to laboratories in East Tennessee, and all along the way spies in the United States were feeding sensitive information to the KGB. Groups of photographs are sprinkled throughout the volume, offering just enough visual support for the splendid character development in the writing, and thorough documentation is provided in the backmatter. It takes a lot of work to make a complicated subject clear and exciting, and from his prodigious research and storytelling skill, Sheinkin has created a nonfiction story young people will want to read. A superb tale of an era and an effort that forever changed our world. (source notes, quotation notes, acknowledgments, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
Real-life spy stories can read like the best fiction, and Sheinkin (The Notorious Benedict Arnold, 2009) knows exactly how to write them. In Bomb, he interweaves three stories of high espionage, starting with Harry Gold, the spy who fed the Soviets the secrets of Los Alamos. Then there is Knut Haukelid, a Norwegian resistance fighter whose derring-do prevented the Germans from attaining the bomb toward the end of World War II. Finally, there are the scientists of the Manhattan project, led by Robert Oppenheimer, who understood better than anyone how this weapon would change the course of the future ("If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world…then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima"). With history is this edge-of-your-seat riveting, it is easy to see why Sheinkin's latest landed among the National Book Awards nominees this year. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 August #2

In his highly readable storytelling style, Sheinkin (The Notorious Benedict Arnold) weaves together tales of scientific and technological discovery, back-alley espionage, and wartime sabotage in a riveting account of the race to build the first atomic weapon. The famous (Robert Oppenheimer) and infamous (spy Harry Gold) headline an enormous cast of characters, which also includes Norwegian resistance fighter Knut Haukelid, whose secret wartime missions prevented Hitler from acquiring an atom bomb. B&w portraits of key players appear in photo- montages that begin each of the book's four sections. Sheinkin pulls from numerous sources to supply every chapter with quotations that swiftly move the narrative forward. Suspenseful play-by-play moments will captivate, from the nuclear chain reaction test at the University of Chicago to the preparations for and dropping of the first bomb over Hiroshima. In a "genie out of the bottle" epilogue, details of the Cold War's escalating arms race and present-day weapons counts will give readers pause, especially Sheinkin's final thoughts: "It's a story with no end in sight. And, like it or not, you're in it." A must-read for students of history and science. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) ¦

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 October

Gr 5 Up--"Harry Gold was right: This is a big story." So begins this depiction of the "creation-and theft-of the deadliest weapon ever invented." As he did in The Notorious Benedict Arnold (Roaring Brook, 2010), Sheinkin has again brought his superior talent for storytelling to bear in what is truly a gripping account of discovery, espionage, and revolutionary changes in both physics and the modern world. This fascinating tale, packed with a wide cast of characters, focuses mainly on three individuals: spy for the Soviets Harry Gold, leader of the Manhattan Project J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Knut Haukelid, who sabotaged German bomb efforts while working for the Norwegian resistance. Sheinkin skillfully combines lucid, conversational snapshots of the science behind the atomic bomb with a fast-paced narrative of the remarkable people who made it possible and attempted to steal it. Handsomely designed and loaded with archival photos and primary-source documents, the accessible volume lays out how the bomb was envisioned and brought to fruition. While the historical information and hard facts presented here will likely be new to the intended audience, they in no way overwhelm readers or detract from the thoroughly researched, well-documented account. It reads like an international spy thriller, and that's the beauty of it.--Brian Odom, Pelham Public Library, AL

[Page 159]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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VOYA Reviews 2012 October
Sheinkin skillfully piques the interest of readers, from pre-teen through adult, by combining all the pieces of the puzzle leading up to the development and implementation of the nuclear weapons used by the United States against Japan in 1945. He brings the story to life by introducing a varied cast of characters along the way. The spies, inventors, physicists, code breakers, laboratory workers, resistance fighters, and political leaders involved in the race for the ultimate weapon and the climactic end of World War II are presented in relatable terms. The story opens with a little known character, Harry Gold, as he is about to be apprehended by the FBI after years of investigation for espionage. The scene is set for the back story of all the other figures in the complex history of the project. Readers become informed participant observers along the way. There is just enough science in the book to educate the reader about atomic energy without overwhelming those not scientifically inclined. The photographs, notes and index are outstanding. This well-paced and very human story reminds the reader of the long-range impact of the bomb on the generations after the first use warfare. Readers are also reminded of the continuing concerns about the use of nuclear energy. "One of history's most amazing examples of teamwork and genius and poise under pressure" is also a caveat for our children: "It's a story with no end in sight. And like it or not, you're in it." Sheinkin's previous book, The Notorious Benedict Arnold, won numerous awards, and this work is bound to join those illustrious ranks. It combines elements of a gripping suspense thriller with the plain truth and realism of its subject, ever reminding us of the "story" within history. This title is highly recommended for all public libraries, as well as academic collections.--Jane Murphy Photos. Notes. Index. 5Q 5P M J S A/YA Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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