The book weaves together 3 different stories: the physicists who created the first atomic bomb (aka The Manhattan Project), a group of spies who worked to undermine American scientific advances by giving it to the Soviets, and some Norwegian resistance fighters who sabotaged German heavy water production. I have read other books about Oppenheimer and the Manhattan project, so was familiar with the broad outlines and even much of the espionage activities. However, I did learn new pieces about both. The Norwegian angle was entirely new to me.
I suspect it's because I was already familiar with this history that I do not rate it as highly as some. I didn't find it that compelling as a narrative - not that it was boring, but it's also not the best science or history writing I've ever encountered. I listened to it as a book on CD; if you do that also grab this print edition since it includes maps and photos and such.
Sheinkin takes readers behind the scenes of the designing, building, and use of the atomic bomb during World War II. He focuses primarily on the American building of the bomb, but successfully integrates German and Soviet work as well in the multiple storylines. Bomb’s storyline hooks readers from the beginning and keeps them engaged; the clear lay out of the book keeps the multiple storylines from getting confusing. The black and white photo collages at the beginning of each section add interest and remind readers that the characters in the book were all real people- this is nonfiction that sometimes reads like the best of spy fiction. Sheinkin includes just enough science that readers can understand the theories behind the scientist’s work but not so much as to put off non-science oriented readers, though those interested in further reading in the science of atomic bombs or spycraft will find plenty of sources in the source notes. A helpful index is also included, along with endnotes for each chapter. Sheinkin does not shy away from the devastating effects of an atomic bomb and makes clear that is an issue still very much present today.Highly recommended for readers of all ages, but especially teens. Even those who don't like nonfiction may warm to this book that reads like a thriller.
This is an awesome piece of nonfiction for teens (but it works equally well for middle grade kids or adults) about the development of the atomic bomb just before, during, and after WWII. I learned a huge amount - I vaguely knew what the Manhattan Project was and that Robert Oppenheimer was involved and some tests took place under a stadium at the University of Chicago, but I had no idea about the fascinating details. I couldn't put this down; it reads very much like a spy thriller. It's important 20th c. history - still effecting us today.