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Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America Paperback – April 15, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
The style is part documentary, part story-telling, part travelogue, part cultural anthropology, and part essay on topics in architecture (generally) which I previously would not have thought about, or thought I had any reason to think about. The approach was successful enough that I found myself frequently being simply and skillfully led to surprising and profound insights, which were a delight. I came away from the book thinking Vanderbilt was an excellent writer with many new and important ideas on the fascinating subject of nuclear weapons, the cold war, and national security generally -- subjects which can easily be made drole, heavy, boring and/or tedious. For many, the so-called atomic era seems long gone and forgotten (and slightly silly in many aspects), but Vanderbilt makes the issues faced then seem relevant to many similar problems facing us today by placing them in a context of continuity. Highly recommended to a broad audience.
I can't help imagining the puzzlement the younger generation must feel at seeing some of these things. Growing up in the 70s and 80s I only saw the end of the Cold War, but the Reagan years witnessed an increase in tensions with the USSR (do younger people even know who that was or what it stood for?) and I recall some events like the local opposition which prevented the deployment of MX missiles in the Utah desert in the late 70s.Read more ›
It was with familiarity, then, that I read Vanderbilt's account of his own descent into an Atlas site of exactly the same design.
Like Vanderbilt, I was always fascinated with the old silos, Nike sites, weapons plants and other military detritus that spoke of great power, huge expense and top security now turned to open ruins left to rot, yet telling a story for the amateur detective to interpret. To think that these crumbling places might have meant The End and that what was now casual climbing might once have meant setting off alarms and being shot by an armed guard.
Vanderbilt's book is not a dry description of the specifications of such ruins (though he does seem to be fond of mentioning the number of inches of thickness of reinforced concrete) but a lively account that puts them in place among the ideas and technologies of the Cold War period. Unlike my often clueless speculations on visits to some of the sites, this author has educated himself and brings along others who can expand his knowledge and ours.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An intriguing read. The author did a good job researching and visiting sites as well as putting these in a historical context. Read morePublished 9 months ago by D. Kittrell
Author went off the subject so much. I wish I could get my money back. He drowned on and on about architecture and aerial photography. I never felt this way about a book before. Read morePublished on October 5, 2013 by Kevin Thomas
This is an very slow read. It really isn't about America's Cold War history. It is about the axe the author seems to want to grind about how he see's the US and the cold warPublished on January 11, 2013 by HMW
This book covers a lot of topics connected to the design of nuclear bunkers and test sites, ranging from how aerial photographs changed the field of urban planning to the esoteric... Read morePublished on December 12, 2011 by Ross Payton
A terrible book. I thought I was reading a book on Architecture and how to build buildings and or cities. Read morePublished on December 19, 2009 by SAC Buff
The "Ruins" of the Cold War are fading fast. Time, weather, and man's inattention to preserving history are everyday factors leading to the eventual disappearance of the relics of... Read morePublished on October 18, 2008 by Peacemaker Press
Tom Vanderbilt's book is not only factual, but provides a riveting adventure through the remnants of America's Cold War. His writing is compelling. Read morePublished on December 20, 2005 by Jennifer K. Greenberg
Tom Vanderbilt would love to be an architect. He's constantly critical of 1950's architecture - wherever he finds it. Read morePublished on March 19, 2004