Merging a scientist's attention to detail with a storyteller's flair for narrative drive and characterization, Rhodes has penned "an apt conclusion to an epic undertaking" (Kansas City Star
). Filled with fascinating facts and anecdotes, The Twilight of the Bombs
not only provides a fresh perspective on otherwise familiar recent events but also reveals significant, little-known episodes in the struggle for nonproliferation, reading at times "like a Tom Clancy novel" (Christian Science Monitor
). The critics unanimously praised Rhodes's engaging style, meticulous research, and clear scientific explanations, but they diverged in their opinions of the optimistic conclusions he draws. While the final chapter on the world's nuclear weapons has yet to be written, Rhodes's four volumes remain unsurpassed in their scope and importance, and The Twilight of the Bombs
is a splendid close to the story thus far.
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In his fourth title in a series initiated by the definitive The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), Rhodes chronicles most but not all major developments related to nuclear weaponry since the cold war ended. Impassioned by his conviction that the atomic bomb confers an illusory sense of security and poses so dire a hazard to humanity that it must be abolished, Rhodes writes journalistically rather than in the more historical manner that characterized this book’s important and widely read predecessors. He interviews politicians, diplomats, and technicians involved in nuclear disarmament over the past two decades and explains such activities as inspections of sites or negotiations of significant international accords such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and agreements between the U.S. and Russia to safeguard nuclear weapons and fissile material. After an interlude about the South African bomb, Rhodes narrates crises with a nuclear angle that were actually or potentially a peril to people at large, namely the Gulf War of 1990–91, the Pakistan/India test explosions of 1998, the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Yet Rhodes’ discussion of the latter is curiously incomplete, relating nothing (beyond blame-Bush aspersions) about how the so-called Agreed Framework brokered by Jimmy Carter in 1994 fell apart under North Korean prevarication and deception. And conspicuously absent from this book is the dangerous nuclear crisis of the moment: Iran. Regardless of omissions, Rhodes’ formidable nuclear knowledge, readably presented, will convey his moral opposition to nuclear deterrence to a sizable audience. --Gilbert Taylor
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