The Apocalypse Factory by Steve Olson [8/10]

The tale of Hanford’s success with plutonium manufacture over the decades for the Nagasaki nuke and then onwards for a generation of atomic and hydrogen bombs, “The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age” is a retelling, but a fresh and vital one. So many of the Manhattan Project and Cold War accounts are too complex, too technical, or too biased. Steve Olson, who hails from the east of Washington State, where the vast plutonium factory sprang up, offers an everyperson account that manages to be both accurate and accessible, both sympathetic (often awestruck) and sad. His unique, and most apt, take on the nuclear weapons enterprise is through the chemistry of plutonium: its discovery, mastery, and production. Olson is a cogent, entertaining writer, and he maintains a steady narrative pace. The Apocalypse Factory celebrates and bemoans a chapter of human achievement, and it comes highly recommended.

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