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on May 17, 2016
This book is an excellent companion to the author’s absolutely classic, “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” It is the next step in atomic history. Perhaps, even to quote Fermi, “it can be done; and almost certainly will be done.”

In that case; this book is an inevitability.

The book starts out with a survey of what happened at Los Alamos and the invention of the fission bomb. Rhodes goes into painstaking detail regarding the development of the bomb and atomic espionage. He links the communist party of The United States to the infiltration by the Soviet Union the bomb project.

Clearly there were enough holes in the system the Russians were nearly up to date on everything we knew and used that information to their advantage by taking years off their own bomb program.

The book continues in describing the debate regarding the fusion bomb. Some scientists felt it should be made in the national interest and yet others thought it was a disaster. They preferred science spends its time on making nuclear power work in a non-military fashion
Not only does the author do a fantastic job of showing this debate. But he also shows us how the US moved forward and eventually produced the first hydrogen bomb. He ultimately finishes the book by describing in detail the Cuban Missile Crisis and how close we came to mutually assured destruction.

Without a doubt this is not an easy read. It’s the kind of heavy book you might read in a major history class. You need to know something about physics, history, some politics as they relate to the history. If you happen to have a keen interest in Atomic History, then this book is clearly written for you.

Ultimately, the book was entirely enjoyable. I look forward to reading more books by author. His making of the atomic bomb book was required reading when I was in college and still remains on my book shelf. Somethings never get old.

If you would like to know more about atomic history then I would suggest the author’s previous book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb or the magnificent book, “American Prometheus, “ by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin.
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on August 2, 2015
Excellent book on a very difficult subject.

All five stars, highly recommended to everyone who wants to know what REALLY happened after the Russians exploded their bomb without much research, just copying stolen US documents.

That explosion in 1949 triggered the 'super bomb' research in the USA supported by some and bitterly opposed by others here but performed also mostly by Sakcharov in USSR without any hesitation.

The author writes explicitly about MAD, 'mutual assured destruction', that resulted from possession of hydrogen bombs by USA and USSR and, hopefully, still holds.

At the end of the book he adds his own comment that put some nuances on MAD. Some of them are obvious: US generals could speak quite 'freely', I doubt that the Russian generals could. Also, the newer nuclear powers, especially North Korea, is not a really a nuclear power and not likely to attack South Korea anytime soon (if ever).

The MAD still holds and appears to be an intrinsic part of the world history, that is history after the fission was discovered in 1939.

The author should be admired for his long and comprehensive work on this book.
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on May 5, 2017
This is a dense book. No question about that when the tome in question has literally THOUSANDS of footnotes and many dozens of cited sources. But despite its density, or perhaps because of it, it is a rich mixture of science, politics, history and even some degree of economics. It covers topics as wide-ranging as the basic concept of the Teller-Ullam device to the politics of deterrence to an overview of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It gives us bright-line sketches of the major historical figures from Oppenheimer - the American Prometheus himself - to Teller to Bethe to Sakharov and even Curtis LeMay and Leventia Beria. Not an easy ready, but all the more rewarding for the effort required for anyone remotely interested in nuclear weapons, the roots of the Cold War and the huge national effort it took to develop and weaponize thermonuclear fusion.
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on October 8, 2012
This book is the follow-up to Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb: 25th Anniversary Edition, which I strongly recommend to read first. By doing so you will get acquainted to the author's investigative style, and (hopefully) appreciate his top-down macro-micro broader approach, always trying to show all angles to a story.

The book deals basically with the development of the hydrogen bomb (fusion weapon), and as such goes at the beginning in parallel to the Manhattan Project efforts, before becoming the main focus of the Los Alamos laboratories in the late 1940's.

While the development of the atomic bomb was a scientific (and later industrial) story, the development of the hydrogen bomb tells a wider story of politics, espionage, and encompasses (at least at the beginning) also the Soviet side. Some reviewers have found this part of the book somewhat out of place, but it is a necessary part that enables the reader to understand why (in part) almost 7 years elapsed in the US until a first fusion device could be tested, whereas that time was halved in the Soviet Union (SU). Unfortunately, the later development of the fusion weapons in the SU is only briefly addressed, which is most probably due to the lack of reliable information sources.

Overall, the author delivers an interesting and well-researched book of a scientific, political, social and espionage story that culminates in the establishment of a horrific arsenal of enough fusion weapons to `bomb human kind back into the Stone Age'. Today, almost 20 years after the final chapters of the Cold War, this looks so strange and difficult to understand that Richard Rhodes' book is a welcomed help. Having said that, the science fans will not be disappointed, either, for whom the chapter of the Mike device alone will be worth the price - highly recommended.
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on June 20, 2015
I read his other book "Making of the Atomic Bomb". This book certainly has the exhaustive research inherent in all of his books. However it seems more dense a read. Rhodes spends a great deal of time on each of the many, many characters involved in researching and building the hydrogen bomb and focuses primarily on spying activities.. This book is really about how the Soviets got all our secrets, and in that respect it is fascinating how we let it happen. If one is interested in this and not the physics and engineering of making a hydrogen bomb, it's the book for you.
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on December 25, 2008
This is a worthy sequel to the author's Pulitzer Prize winning `The Making of the Atomic Bomb.' It admirably relates the history of post-WW2 atomic weapons (including the Soviet program) and the development of the `Super' (hydrogen/thermonuclear) Bomb. Theoretical and technical challenges are clearly profiled with conceptual, developmental, and testing milestones. Not least, the political context (the Berlin Airlift, Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc) is also fully explored.

Soviet espionage dating from the earliest efforts at Los Alamos is detailed (Harry Gold, Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, the Rosenburgs, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, the Cohens). It reveals a ruthless régime (Joseph Stalin and Lavrenti Beria), but also a parent country bled white by the loss of over twenty million in WW2 (and all the more susceptible to new threats). Though espionage no doubt accelerated Soviet progress, able scientists like Igor Kurchatov and Andrei Sakharov fulfilled Bohr's prediction that scientific progress was inevitable across the globe. Prometheus did not discriminate.

Major figures (J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, Stanislaw Ulam, Louis Strauss, Curtis LeMay, etc) are also depicted (with the increasingly divisive politics of their times).

The testing of `Mike' 1 November 1952 at Eniwetok revealed a single bomb that yielded 10.4 megatons, more than twice the power of all explosives used in WW2. Subsequent improvements have increased the easy agency and disastrous yield of subsequent generations of this weapon. During the Cuban Missile Crisis SAC had 7,000 megatons in the air ready (and eager?) to strike the USSR.

Does superiority in weapons of mass destruction (liable to kill us even if successfully deployed against an enemy) make us safer or less safe? Is it (as Oppenheimer predicted) a case of "scorpions in a bottle?" Read this account and decide for yourself.
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on October 6, 2015
If you are expecting a book about how the bomb was made, look elsewhere. This book, contrary to it's title, is mostly about people the Russians recruited to pass information about the program on to Moscow. It should be called "Red Sun: The Stealing of the Hydrogen Bomb". The book has very little to do with the actual mechanics of building the bomb. That said, it seems very deeply researched and well written.
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on August 23, 2015
This book presents a picture of the pathway from the atomic bomb through the hydrogen bomb. The Manhattan Project was absolutely riddled with spies, just how many and what was given up is truly astounding. Frightening is the attitude of some of those Americans in charge of the atomic weapons during the cold war. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I'd always heard and assumed it was the Russians that pushing the limits. There were people on our side that wanted a nuclear exchange. This book shows just how close they came to getting it. Highly recommended.
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on September 7, 2017
I did not enjoy this book as much as I did the author's "The Making of the Atomic Bomb". The initial focus on the Russian espionage program starting in World War II left me wondering where the book was going: was this a book about the development of the H-bomb or about espionage? Eventually, the book does get around to the technical and political issues surrounding the decision to build and then to build the bomb but by that time I was getting impatient with the narrative.
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on January 11, 2008
"Dark Sun" is primarily NOT an overview of the development of the hydrogen bomb. Instead, it is a great fusion (no pun intended) of the people, events and fears of the post-Hiroshima world that motivated the development of the "super" in both the US and the USSR, and the global situation created by these programs.

Central in this presentation is the espionage program of the USSR, culminating in the demonstration of fission and fusion bombs, and the Rosenberg trial. How the networks were established and operated, and how they moved information is beautifully described. (Contrary to much popular opinion, it appears the US had the Rosenbergs cold.)

When compared to "The Making of the Atomic Bomb," there is relatively little technical detail in "Dark Sun." I surmise the reason for this is simple: details are (quite rightly) highly classified because a hydrogen bomb is probably a lot simpler to construct than the fission trigger described. (As any number of smaller countries have found, production of fissile material is the biggest barrier to making a bomb.) Nevertheless, readers curious about early fusion devices will find themselves rewarded by this book.

What makes this a great tale is Rhodes ability to put together a story of people and events, and interpret them in human terms that any reader will appreciate.
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