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Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, May 9, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The pace of Walker's narrative replicates the frantic advance of August 1945. BBC filmmaker Walker won an Emmy for his documentary on the bombing of Hiroshima and brings precision jump-cuts to this synesthesic account of the 20th century's defining event. Beginning his story three weeks before August 6 (with the first test of a bomb some of its creators speculated might incinerate the earth's atmosphere), Walker takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through the memories of American servicemen, Japanese soldiers and civilians, and the polyglot team of scientists who participated in the Manhattan Project under Gen. Leslie Groves. He establishes the doubts, fears and hopes of the bomb's designers, most of whom participated from a fear that Nazi Germany would break the nuclear threshold first. He nicely retells the story of Japan's selection months before as a target, reflecting the accelerated progress of the war in Europe, and growing concern among U.S. policymakers at the prospect of unthinkable casualties, Japanese as well as American, should an invasion of Japan's "Home Islands" be necessary. Walker conveys above all the bewilderment of Hiroshima's people, victims of a Japanese government controlled by men determined to continue fighting at all costs. Shockwave's depiction of the consequences invite comparison with John Hershey's still-classic Hiroshima. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Every account of the destruction of Hiroshima is dramatic, but historian and filmmaker Walker has created an exceptionally taut and revealing chronicle. By beginning with the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, and documenting with cinematic selectivity and flow the key events of the next three weeks leading up to August 6, 1945, the day Little Boy was detonated above Hiroshima, he captures the mix of fury and ambition that drove the decision to deploy this barely understood weapon against a civilian population. With an unerring sense of striking detail and ironic juxtaposition, Walker cuts from the tension at Los Alamos to Potsdam--where Truman, Churchill, and Stalin met to decide Japan's fate--to the top-secret airbase on the tiny Pacific island of Tinian, from which the Enola Gay took flight. Here are sharp and searching close-ups of the bomb makers and the bomb's victims, including Taeko Nakamae, then a girl soldier, and a doctor, Shuntaro Hida, who both survived the apocalypse and share their horrific memories 60 years later. Walker brings a fresh, judicious perspective to the eternally shocking story of Hiroshima, which must be told and retold so that its terrible lessons are never forgotten. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060742852
  • ASIN: B005CDV4IW
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,170,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By B. Latham on August 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I am in absolute awe of Stephen Walker's ability to tell a story. His descriptive eloquence flows from one page to another, profoundly unveiling in first-person detail that chain of events that brought a decisive end to World War II. Even though Hiroshima took place years before my birth, through Walker's words, I felt as though I had been given a rare privilege - that of peering into the hearts and minds of those who lived and were forever changed by it. Thank you, Stephen Walker, for bringing to life a time wrought with catastrophic death as well as victory. Only now can I begin to imagine the feelings and fears of the men and women touched by the Manhattan Project.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes VINE VOICE on January 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Shockwave" is a riveting book, made all the more powerful because the story is told from the dual perspectives of the Americans who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and the citizens of Japan who suffered its effects.

The story begins on August 5, 1945 in the Shukkein Garden of Hiroshima, as two lovers part company. The narrative flashes back to the deserts of New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was detonated on July 15, 1945. In tense, tight chapters, Walker carries the tale forward day by day, week by week, as the Americans move the bomb inexorably toward Hiroshima: the plane flights out of New Mexico, the mysterious loading of materials aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, the bizarre training of aircrews who had no clear idea of what they would drop on Japan, the assembly of the first bomb on Tinian, the delicate procedure by which the bomb was armed in flight.

The Americans in the book are driven by their determination to end the war quickly, their resolve strengthed by the thousands of young Americans killed and maimed in four years of brutal fighting. On the other side of the tale are the citizens of Hiroshima, who go about their lives in war-torn Japan. They have no inkling at all of the fate that awaits them, but they are determined to defend their homeland to the bitter end. With the grim certainty of tragedy, the two sides collide in one horrific moment in which tens of thousands of Japanese are instantly killed and tens of thousands more begin the long and painful process of dying.

It is impossible not to be moved by this book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Steve Iaco on August 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Shockwave" is historical storytelling at its finest. Stephen Walker transports us back to the summer of 1945, when the country's $2 billion+ investment in nuclear weaponry - and its gambit to shorten the war - faced its decisive moment of truth.

Walker recounts the extraordinary secrecy that cloaked the Manhattan Project - military personnel thought to be security risks were summarily dispatched to guard duty in Alaska -- and the enormous pressures on men like Oppenheimer and General Groves to make it succeed. Oppenheimer was so pessimistic that he was actually betting that the New Mexico test firing would fail, and, at one point, was banned from the testing site so that his negative energy would not affect other scientists. We see an emboldened Pres. Truman at Potsdam "bossing around" a phlegmatic Stalin, who knew more about the U.S.'s "secret" weapon than he let on thanks to the espionage of the notorious Klaus Fuchs. Japan foreign ministry peace overtures through the Soviets run into a diplomatic cul de sac when Truman insists on unconditional surrender, and Stalin opts instead to declare war on Japan and stream his forces into Manchuria.

Despite the protestations of some in the scientific community - including Leo Szilard, "the father of the bomb" - Truman and his advisors never doubt their decision to target a Japanese population center - without warning or demonstration. (Only War Secretary Stimson has some qualms, but he doesn't express them very forcefully.) It's just "not a decision to worry about," Truman says, famously.

Certainly, Paul Tibbets and the Enola Gay crew don't have any reservations about the mission they're asked to perform. And Walker captures their harrowing, tension-filled ride from Tinian Island to Hiroshima in vivid detail.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Green VINE VOICE on October 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Walker takes us through the final three weeks before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Using personal interviews and extensive research, it is both an exciting ride and a heart-rending account of the victors and those who experienced it's horrors firsthand on the ground. It made me feel I was watching a car crash: you know what's coming but you can't take your eyes away from it.

My only complaint would be the casual characterizations of many of the people involved in the Manhattan Project as unthinking, unfeeling, power-hungry, or as mere "tools" of their leaders. At the same time, those who opposed the use of the bomb were portrayed as insightful and open-minded. But, in contrast, one whole chapter was devoted to explaining why there really was no other choice, and recognizes that there were many factors to the decision, and it wasn't a simple choice. Overall, it felt like a balanced picture of events, and was certainly a great insight into the events that ended the war.
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