Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: Bomb: The Race to Build - And Steal - The World''s Most Dangerous Weapon

    Review: Bomb: The race to build - and steal - the world's most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin

    Published by: Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, 2012

    ISBN: 978-1-59643-487-5

    Reading Level: Grade 7+

Non-fiction is not always something that I choose to read. While I often enjoy historical works, I generally reach for historical novels. Profiles of people, unless well written and about someone who is prolific and accomplished in their field, tend to pale to me when compared to a fictional character who can be developed and made into a person I want to read about - and there's rarely conflicting reports about the life and times of a fictional person. I research and read about events widely - I like to know the background of the historical fiction or the shows I'm watching - but I rarely get excited about picking up a non-fiction tome. I think that this makes the Non Fiction reading challenge more exciting to me - it's going out of my comfort zone, something that must always be done.

Appropriately, I started with 'Bomb', the story of making the atomic bomb during World War II. I am currently in the process of re-watching the HBO series 'The Pacific' and thus, found it apt to couple this with reading about the bombs which ended the war. I have often used those bombs as exemplars when discussing the phrase 'History is written by the victors'. As well, the sitcom 'The Big Bang Theory' is required watching in my house; their references to the Manhattan Project have sparked me to look up the people involved on the project. I approached this book with anticipation, the thrill of learning making my little librarian heart beat a little faster.

In 1938, a Germany based chemist made a discovery - when placed near radioactive material, a uranium atom split in two. This was the inspiration for the three countries - The United States, Russia and Germany - and their race to build the first atomic bomb. This book focuses on the American part it in all, including the spies placed within the American organization as well as the role they played in delaying the discoveries of other countries. Throughout there are pictures of the key players as well as important places.

At times, this book reads like a fantastic spy novel - made better by knowing that it's all true. Other times it gets muddy in explanation and development, trying to fit all the information in and losing some focus in the process. Occasionally I had to check and remember who it was they were discussing as it jumped from person to person to place to place. As well, as an adult reader, I could tell that at times the language was being refocused for younger readers and some facts sugarcoated. That's a small fact in the process but one that stood out to me several times. The information presented was extremely interesting and I loved learning more about the background of the bomb - and the fallout afterwards in and between the developing countries.

For students interested in a solid, historical nonfiction read, this book is a great one. It will aid in their understanding of these events, events which are important ones in their life time.

I rate this book 4/5.

Goodreads page.


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