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Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  1,099 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Here, for the first time, in a brilliant, panoramic portrait by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, is the definitive, often shocking story of the politics and the science behind the development of the hydrogen bomb and the birth of the Cold War.

Based on secret files in the United States and the former Soviet Union, this monumental work of h
Paperback, 736 pages
Published August 6th 1996 by Simon & Schuster (first published August 1st 1995)
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James Murphy
Years ago I'd read and enjoyed Rhodes's earlier The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Because that was a history of atomic research, the Manhattan Project, and the resulting bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I'd expected Dark Sun to be a history in a similar style. It's partly that; the record of how thermonuclear theory was developed into a weapon is only a piece of the huge story he tells. Dark Sun, continuing the history of nuclear arms begun with The Making of the Atomic Bomb, includes 2 importan ...more
Richard Rhodes described the beginnings of the atomic age in his "The Making of the Atomic Bomb." The scientific-military Manhattan Project was born of the necessity to beat the Nazis into production of atomic bombs and ended with their use by the United States against Japan. "Dark Sun" tells the history of nuclear bomb development since that time. It contains a wealth of scientific descriptions, such as a discussion of the physics of thermonuclear (TN) devices and their construction (e.g., Tell ...more
Great story, thoroughly researched, of the science, people, relationships and politics of the H-bomb

A great story of the the war, the role of science, the bomb's specific technical evolution, and the people and politics. I find it rare for an author to weave all those elements into a cohesive story, particularly on such a dauntingly complex technical subject.

Too often, the history of science and technology is presented as separate, linear and logical, distinct from the messiness of people, relat
Randolph Carter
I finally abandoned this after 200 pages. I NEVER do that, but I'm too old now to waste my life on things I'm not interested in. At least for the 200 pages I read there was precious little about the making of the hydrogen bomb and skimming the rest gave little hope. If you were interested in the espionage behind the atomic programs you might like this book, however I found the narrative so dull I simply could not ever connect with it; who stole this, who met whom on what day, simply tedious. For ...more
This book is a fairly comprehensive look at the early development of the US nuclear arsenal. The scientific aspects of the book are surprisingly easy to follow for those not familiar with nuclear physics and engineering (which, honestly, is pretty much everyone). The author does a great job of turning what could be a very dry subject into a compelling history with stories of scientific rivalries, political gamesmanship, and Cold War espionage. The book also highlights evolving ideas about nuclea ...more
This is sort of the sequel to his The Making of the Atom Bomb(which I liked, albeit it was thick and complicated).

That book was all about "fission"...

Hydrogen bombs, well, that's all about "fusion" we're still talking about a thick and complicated book. (Now featuring even more neutrons!)

It was good, too, but it suffered from nuclear physics overdose because I read it after I read the first one. There's only so much heavy hydrogen you can wade through before you want a chase scene or so
Todd Stockslager
Rhode's history of thermonuclear weaponry is well written, but the subject seems oddly dated, as if the "Cold War" and the terrors of atomic attack were something from centuries ago, not from my lifetime. The fear, dread, paranoia, and hysteria were very real and very recent, and it is only surely by the restraining hand of God in human history that it continues. Or, as Rhodes concludes, the greatest and only effective deterrent against nuclear war was "personal dread."

This abject and groveling
Richard Rhodes follow up to The Making of the Atomic Bomb provides a detailed history from the Manhattan Project to the development of the H-Bomb (Super) by both the Americans and the Russians. The book starts out with about 80 pages of summary on the Manhattan Project focusing mostly on the Soviet espionage as it relates to the Soviets development of the A Bomb and the push then by the Americans to invest in the development of the Super. From a detailed account of the spying done by the Rosenbe ...more
Dermot Nolan
As with 'The making of the Atomic Bomb'. This books is not necessarily focussed on the actual making of the bomb per se. More time is spent on the Soviet espionage and their A Bomb development. To me this book seems to focuss more on the development of the Cold War through the eyes of the scientists, soldiers (airmen/sailors) and politicians involved in Atomic Weapons Research in the US and USSR.

There is a fantastic level of detail concerning the espionage at Los Alamos and other US installatio
Nicely written and exhaustively researched. But my main feeling about the book is: Depressing. Details how various well meaning idiots betray the US and give technology to the Soviets; how Stalin and his sociopaths betray everyone but themselves (Instead of rebuilding Russia, mostly destroyed by the Germans, Stalin instead keeps up troop levels and ramps up war production); how Edward Teller and others turn on Dr. Oppenheimer; how the partisan zealots of the US and the USSR turn an opportunity ...more
I gave this book a one-star rating because the title is misleading, to say the least. Approximately 50 pages of the whole text discuss the making of the hydrogen bomb. The rest of the book is nothing more than a biased, opinionated account of the political affairs before, during and after World War II, as well as the espionage work of multiple Soviet spies in the United States during the same time period. The writing style is awkward at times, incorporating unusual sentence structures, which occ ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb is equally comprehensive and epic in scope as Rhodes’ predecessor, the award-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb. The incredible depth and detail of these volumes make for laborious reading at times, but they are nonetheless remarkable in their achievement. Skimming is sometimes necessary, unless you are an avid scientist with complete understanding of the intricate nature of nuclear physics. The truly compelling aspect of Dark Sun is how it captures t ...more
Like Richard Rhodes' previous work, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, the title Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb doesn't begin to describe the shear amount of information in the book. The greatest difference between Dark Sun and Atomic Bomb is that this book spends much of its time on political maneuverings, Soviet espionage, and the Soviet effort to build an atomic bomb.

While the basic operational principles of thermonuclear weapons are covered, there is not as much detail as was found in

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb covers more than the title suggests. The narrative begins with Soviet espionage in the 1940s, coving such figures as the physicist Klaus Fuchs, the courier Harry Gold, David Greenglass the enlisted man at Los Alamos, and the Rosenbergs. These figures and others provided the Soviets with a good deal of information about the atomic bomb program, in particular the existence of plutonium and the use of implosion to create a plutonium bomb (as opposed to a

The title says it all - a book about the development of hydrogen bomb, in both its American and its Russian incarnation. The book is the sequel to The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

The book roughly starts where its predecessor ended, and tells the story of the main characters in the Manhattan project, and how they started work on the Next Big Thing -- the hydrogen bomb, as invented by Ulam/Teller. The book is a bit less about the science and more about the politics of the H-bomb project, but still t
William Hamman
It is best for me to regard "Dark Sun" as a direct sequel to "The Making of the Atomic Bomb", because that's exactly what it is. "Dark Sun" presumes that you're read the other book, so it doesn't recapitulate much of the physics or history of the atomic bomb. It only has one reasonably technical section at all, a lucid and clear description of X-ray ablation and pusher recoil as it pertained to the Ivy Mike weapon.

The rest of it is largely concerned with Soviet espionage, the history of some as
This follow-up to "Making of the Atomic Bomb" was not as brilliant as the original, but still very good.

The author traces the development of the arms race between the US and the USSR after World War 2, and what drove the U.S. to develop weapons of insane destructive power. He shows that a big part of the "arms race" was irrational fear on the part of U.S. policy-makers. The U.S. had some truly crazy folks (LeMay, Borden) in charge of its nuclear weapons program, and with their finger on the but
A great sequel to "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" It's a great history lesson of the early cold war. It's very dry, but thorough. Who would have thought that the Soviets had an exact copy of the plans of the original Fat Man Bomb and that was their first test. I had no idea just how deep the soviet espionage was.
The book is much broader than the title implies. The first half of it is about the entwined stories of Soviet nuclear espionage and the Soviet bomb project. It's a story I had never seen before. As part of it, Rhodes includes a great deal of material about the engineering of the first-generation nuclear weapons; I was surprised he was able to dig up so much material about initiators, tampers, and so forth.

The book has multiple strands. Another one, that I hadn't seen before, was the creation and
Luca Mauri
As the preceding The making of the atomic bomb this book represent a monumental research work in history.
Unfortunately, again as in the previous book, the writing style of the author is too often flat and boring. Especially in the description of the espionage facts, lecture is almost impossible. Fortunately, scientific introductions, explanation about the bomb and military strategies are better written and more enjoyable.
Overall, I believe it is a step forward, but the Author still need a lot of
Not only is this a very compelling and understandible read about the project to develop the Hydrogen Bomb, it is also a startling expose of the reasons why so many betrayed their own country to leak those secrets to the Soviets.

Rhodes not only vividly details the rampant anti-Semitism in the United States that the Soviets exploited to gain the trust of Jewish scientists working on the project, but also he exposes the last days of Joseph Stalin and introduces the strong possiblity that he was mu
G. Branden
A worthy follow-up to The Making of the Atomic Bomb , but the tight-fistedness of Rhodes's sources render it slightly less informative. I hope to find out if the author's subsequent (and much more recent) follow-up Arsenals of Folly , fills in the gaps.

Invaluable for insight into the Soviet nuclear program, which is a pretty hazy subject for most Americans (and probably to many contemporary Soviet citizens as well).
This follow-up to the (excellent) "Making of the Atomic Bomb" becomes a Cold War tale: Teller, Oppie, Commies, doomsday devices. It's less science, more Strangelove.
Not the classic that Rhodes' Atomic Bomb is, but well worth reading. Good explanations of the physics and engineering behind the H bomb designs. I never realized how truly close to nuclear war we came in the 50s and 60s--even closer than depicted in the movies on the Cuban missile crisis. On multiple occasions, Strategic Air Command (SAC) and various committees actually advised Ike and Kennedy to preemptively strike the Soviet Union!! I also never realized that SAC had the capability of launchin ...more
Michael Spires
Another outstanding book from Rhodes. Thoroughly researched, easy to read and to follow (even without a specialist knowledge of nuclear physics), and hard to put down. Quite a shocking disclosure of the shoddy treatment of J. Robert Oppenheimer at the hands of the Atomic Energy Commission at the height of the Red Scare, and a good rhetorical question at the end about just how very highly educated men, trained in the scientific method, could so radically misjudge the true relative strengths of th ...more
Steven Sund
Quite long BUT quite a few great stories
Scott Ransom
So this was most certainly a worthwhile read, although nowhere near the same class as "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" (which I think every scientist and most want-to-be-educated people should read). The descriptions of the science and technology wasn't nearly as thorough as TMotAB (although that could be because most of the info is still highly classified), but the discussion of the politics, and the personalities were very well done. A fascinating topic in general, and one that makes me very ve ...more
This book narrates the history of the making of the hydrogen bomb. I read it because it describes the people and industry of Los Alamos. I was surprised at the distinctly different personalities of Oppenheimer and the evil Teller. Also surprised at how willing we were to share information with the Soviets during Lend-Lease, and how the relationship deteriorated quickly after the war. Oppenheimer was painted as a good leader whose inevitable invention was perpetuated by the arms industry. Interes ...more
Most people who read "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" and expect this book to be the same will be disappointed. Whereas the former was focused much more on the scientific side of building the atomic bomb, this book focuses much more on the extensive efforts by the Soviet Union to steal the neccessary technology to develop their own nuclear program. I think both are very interesting books and are remarkably well written, but hopefully the reader will go into the second book with an open mind.
Allen Massey
I was hoping this book would provide a detailed description of the science behind the development of the hydrogen (thermo nuclear) bomb. That is what Richard Rhodes did in his wonderful book about the making of the atomic bomb.

Instead the book spends about 700 pages describing who was spying on who and how the Soviet Union was stealing secrets.

The history of the spies is a fine subject, but it is just not what I thought I was getting when I started this book.
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Richard Lee Rhodes is an American journalist, historian, and author of both fiction and non-fiction (which he prefers to call "verity"), including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), and most recently, Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (2007). He has been awarded grants from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation a ...more
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“on his first visit to the Los Alamos Tech Area, when he had encountered von Neumann discussing theory with dark, intense Edward Teller, the “tremendously long formulae on the blackboard” had scared him. “Seeing all these complications of analysis, I was dumbfounded, fearing I would never be able to contribute anything.” But the equations stayed on the board from day to day, which meant to Ulam that the pace of invention was relatively slow, and he soon regained confidence.1340 “I found out that the main ability to have was a visual, and also an almost tactile, way to imagine the physical situations, rather than a merely logical picture of the problems.” 0 likes
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