The Bomb: A Life by Gerard DeGroot

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Before the Bomb, there were simply 'bombs', lower case. Bombs are as old as hatred itself, but it was the twentieth century, one hundred years of almost incredible scientific progress, that saw the birth of the Bomb, the human race's most powerful and most destructive discovery. Since 8.14 a.m. 6 August 1945, when a lone B-29 aircraft appeared over the skies of Hiroshima and destroyed a city, the Bomb has haunted our dreams and threatened our existence.

In this magisterial account, Gerard DeGroot gives us the life story of the Bomb, from its birth in the turn-of-the-century physics labs of Europe to a childhood in the New Mexico desert of the 1940s, from adolescence and early adulthood in Nagasaki and Bikini, Australia and Siberia to unsettling maturity in test sites and missile silos all over the globe. The Bomb killed hundreds of thousands outright, condemned many more to lingering deaths and made vast tracts of land unfit for life. For decades it dominated the psyches of millions, becoming a touchstone of popular culture, celebrated or decried in mass political movements, films, songs and books.

DeGroot has captured the Bomb's short but vastly significant life in all its scope, providing us with an astonishingly vivid portrait of the times and the people - from Teller to Oppenheimer, Truman to Reagan - whose legacy still governs our world. By turns horrific, awe-inspiring and blackly comic, The Bomb is never less than compelling. For there is as yet no sign of the Bomb's retirement. And its death might be ours too.