From Publishers Weekly
Highlighting the Cold War era's obsession with what Vanderbilt (The Sneaker Book) calls "constant protection from an invisible threat," this is a fascinating political and cultural analysis of "cold war architecture": a vast array of structures from missile silos to small towns built to test the effectiveness of an atomic blast, presidential fallout shelters, nuclear waste dumps, monoliths like the windowless PacBell building in Los Angeles, and countless motels and diners named "Atomic." The physical structures that resulted from Cold War ideology and politics also had far deeper and extensive psychological and emotional implications and ramifications: "the domestication of doomsday." Mixing first-person narrative of his travels around the U.S. in search of Cold War sites and objects with an extensive accumulation of provocative historical facts ("the U.S. Air Force bombing raids on Tokyo exacted a higher cost in lives and property" than the later atomic bombings), Vanderbilt takes great pains to reveal the Cold War policies behind the scattered remnants he encounters. Once-ubiquitous fallout shelter signs were a result of the Kennedy administration's National Fallout Shelter Survey, undertaken by "a mobile army of atomic surveyors (many of them architecture students)." As far as blastworthiness is concerned, "the toughest job is myth control," a NORAD civil engineer tells Vanderbilt during his trip 4,400 feet underground to the North American Aerospace Defense Command Center. This book certainly does its part in debunking the "Duck, and Cover" mindset.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
". . . a genuinely engaging book, perhaps because [Vanderbilt] is skillful at conveying his own sense of engagement to the reader." -- Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2002
". . . a retracing of Dr. Strangelove as ordinary life. . ." -- Greil Marcus -- Bookforum, June 2002
". . .if this book teaches us anything, it's that a civilized society will not sacrifice aesthetics for safety." -- Architectural Record, May 2002
"...an admirable journey and an appeal for more detailed geographical studies of the Cold War and its global histories." -- Environment and Planning Journal, February 2003
"Exploring buried traces of the Cold War in America. . .[Vanderbilt finds] a vast, secret and now largely abandoned landscape." -- Architecture, May 2002
"Vanderbilt crafts a travelogue through a history that never happened." -- The Washington Post, May 15, 2002
"a genuinely engaging book...the author is so skillful at conveying his own sense of engagement to the reader." -- The Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2002