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The Twilight of the Bombs: Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

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.

From Booklist

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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Product Details

  • Roughcut: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (August 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307267547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307267542
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,140,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ash Jogalekar TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 29, 2010
Format: Roughcut Verified Purchase
In this last volume of his breathtaking account of nuclear history, Richard Rhodes describes the post Cold War problems and hopes associated with nuclear weapons. The books bears many of Rhodes's trademarks- it is extremely well-researched and contains sharp portraits of the major players as well as fast-paced accounts of key events that make you feel as if you were there. Rhodes's abilities as a storyteller are still remarkable. This book is relatively slim and does not command the high-octane prose of Rhodes's masterpiece "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" but as usual, Rhodes's authoritative knowledge of nuclear matters provides many revelations and he has a novelist's eye for detail which keeps the reader hooked.

The book can roughly be divided into four parts. The first part concerns the first Gulf War and the dismantling of Iraq's nuclear infrastructure, the second part describes the race to secure nuclear material in the former Soviet republics after the fall of the Soviet Union, the third part briefly talks about South Africa's nuclear ambitions and and then in more detail about attempts to contain nuclear efforts by North Korea and the last part concerns the run-up to the second Gulf War and some final thoughts on the future of nuclear weapons. One striking omission in the book is Iran, and I think readers would have appreciated Rhodes's insightful thoughts on the Iranian nuclear problem.

The first part examines the troubling evidence in the 1980s that Saddam Hussein was trying to build a nuclear capability. Rogue Pakistani scientist A Q Khan had even tried to unsuccessfully sell Iraq a bomb design based on a Chinese weapon.
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Format: Roughcut
I try to keep up with all the literature relating to nuclear weapons, etc., but this book was a revelation. He provides the inside stories, often quoting sources he interviewed directly, re what really went on in the IAEA and UNSCOM inspections (some fairly dramatic stuff), who was who and who did what (e.g., for those who have had the good fortune to meet Hans Blix and Amb. Thomas Graham and Bob Galluci, it is fascinating to see the roles they played. And to read the reactions of the US and Soviet teams of scientists as they visited each others' countries, there are moments of stunning insight provided (e.g., the Soviet top nuclear targeting guy marvels that all the various cities he visits were just spots on a map, and now he cannot conceive wiping them out).
This book is not for the unitiated, however. It assumes a certain level of knowledge (e.g., having read perhaps one of his earlier fabulous books).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Last book of this nuclear saga, a great collection of books to educate educated people what the 1939 discovery of nuclear fission really meant.

It is a NON FICTION although some passages read like a fiction.

It is also quite ideological. It will definitely NOT please American and other conservatives who do not think much about reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons of any kind.

I am a retired natural scientist (chemist) and I did not realize that there is really not a fundamental difference between fission and fusion weapon - there is a minimum size for fission weapons but there is essentially no maximum size for fusion ('hydrogen') bombs.

In conclusion of the series of books the author presents the issue as an issue of public health. It is surely similar to public health but it is, in my opinion, not exactly the same. Hygiene came to us 'naturally', ban of nuclear weapons, sources of very un-natural death (nobody, as far as I know, ever called them 'act of God') does not look to me very 'natural'.

These notes are, of course, kind of philosophical and do not diminish the value of the collection of books that everyone who considers himself/herself an educated person should read.

All five stars, this is a unique series of books.
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Format: Paperback
The career of author Richard Rhodes spans over four decades of history as well as subject matter ranging from early articles on dogs and horses for publications such as Harper's and Esquire to a handful of novels since 1973. However, he has made his most important mark in nonfiction (or "verity," a term he prefers), with an impressive bibliography on the subject of nuclear bombs.

The Twilight of the Bombs: Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons, published first in 2010 and released this month by Vintage Books in a trade paper edition, is his latest treasure of information and anecdotes that mark the landscape of international politics and nuclear history in the post-Cold War era. It is a book of remarkable depth, unbiased in its presentation, and powerfully logical in its conclusions.

Children of the Cold War will easily recall the heated debates as well as the horrific nightmares dramatically expressed in the political arena, dating back to such television campaign ads as the one by Lyndon Baines Johnson, the "Daisy Girl" ad, in his successful 1964 bid for the White House against Arizona senator, and noted conservative idealogue, Barry Goldwater.

Fear haunted the generation of American children born in that era as they became aware of their vulnerability to nuclear attacks by America's ideological foes. A measure of false comfort was attempted upon children against the hopelessness and fear of a real attack. In public schools, students were required to participate in atomic bomb drills using a "duck and cover" defense, sometimes evoking increased fear, rather than a feeling of security.
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