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Dark Sun: The Making Of The Hydrogen Bomb

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,137 ratings  ·  141 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 ...more
Kindle Edition, 736 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published August 1st 1995)
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Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is no Making of the Atomic Bomb, but it is still an excellent account of the history of the H-Bomb. It continues exactly where the Making of the Atomic Bomb ended and it proceeds to tell the history of not the H-bomb but the start of the Cold War. With Russian espionage, first Soviet atomic bomb, Berlin air lift and the Korean war the Cold War started and just like with the Atomic Bomb previously, fear and uncertainty gave the true reasons to make the H-Bomb, for it's history is unavoi ...more
James Murphy
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sean Blake
Dark Sun is a monumental piece of history writing. Richard Rhodes' dense and gripping look into the world of the hydrogen bomb is probably one of the most definitive books on nuclear history, Cold War politics and a disturbing insight into nuclear science. It's truly disturbing that man has created a weapon that harnesses the power of the Sun.
Jul 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Peter Tillman
Oct 09, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, sci-tech
Added this to the long-term TBR list. I liked his first Making of the A-bomb a lot.

I came across this quote from the book:
"The discovery in 1938 of how to release nuclear energy introduced a singularity into the human world — a deep new reality, a region where the old rules of war no longer applied. The region of nuclear singularity enlarged across the decades, sweeping war away at its shock front until today it excludes all but civil wars and limited conventional wars …

Science has revealed at
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
In his sequel to the Making of the Atomic Bomb. Richard Rhodes covers the history of Russian spying on the American Bomb project and the early cold war development and of course the arms race that lead to the making of the hydrogen bomb. The Hydrogen Bomb which was often called the Super by the physicists working on it dwarfed the fission bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They can really bring and end to humanity's tenure on this planet. With the end of the cold war tensions eased for a w ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
The hydrogen bomb is the natural sequel to the atomic bomb, but Dark Sun is a shadow of its predecessor, and Rhodes can't find a single narrative thread in this trudge of a history.

The individual pieces are there, the transformation of the American atomic complex from a handful of scattered parts in the late 1940s to an instrument capable of killing a nation in 1955 is a fascinating story of bureaucratic transformation. The Teller-Ulam device is a masterpiece of precision engineering, directed
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
- I've never read a passage so erotic that subtly turns in gross horror. (The incredible depth and detail of the ignition of the Mike thermonuclear device and all of the physics involved in it's operation as it expands outwards and turns into a wave of destruction.)

- WTF moment 1: Curtis LeMay casually flying spy planes over Russia with possible hopes that he could start WWIII. He'd spent years getting the U.S. bombing force into a potent force, and seemed extremely into not letting the force go
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A story of science, politics and espionage. The major players are drawn in almost novel level detail. It’s a bit too thorough to be a constant page turner, but as a work of history it is informative and entertaining.
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, science
While parts of this were very interesting, it was overall much weaker than the first book. I think what I liked most about the first book was Rhodes's description of the science and engineering that went into building the atomic bomb. There is some of that here, but significantly less. There is much more about Soviet spying---material which is somewhat dated and, to me, pedestrian. Rhodes also tries to quickly go over the history of US policy on nuclear weapons, but it is too brief and has been ...more
Ulyana Kubini
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, the book is an excellent overview of Russian espionage in the scientific community and describes the history and making of the hydrogen bomb. I’ve gotten to know many individuals throughout the book, including the two most in intriguing folks (in my opinion): Klaus Fuchs and Robert Oppenheimer. I enjoyed reading their testimonies and seeing Oppie’s involvement in the physics community at Los Alamos. The book’s other ‘plot’ is this race between the USSR and America. Again, intriguing to ...more
Alan Gerling
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After recently reading Hiroshima Nagasaki, I found myself curious about how the hydrogen bomb was developed and tested. Amazon recommended that I read Dark Sun. I started the book in the background (theology and some other reading took priority) several months ago and have been chewing on it ever since. Spoiler, this book is not short! I read almost everything electronically, but if you were to pick up the paperback, it's 700+ pages long.

I've been chewing on it for a while. However, you'll noti
William Hamman
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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
David Kirschner
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read a chunk of Dark Sun this past summer and set it aside when school began. First off, Dark Sun is extremely interesting, with incredibly detailed research. It gets deep into the science and politics of it all. I really enjoyed reading it, but I'm like 1/3 of the way through and it's a slow read. So, second I credit Dark Sun with making me realize that life is short and I've only got time to read books that I'm super interested in or that are going to be useful to me. I mean, I imagine many ...more
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: prehistoric
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
Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite as engaging for me as his previous volume about the Manhattan Project--Rhodes bounces from the Soviet atomic espionage programs to the post-war research environment to (eventually) the development of the hydrogen bomb, and all the threads don't entirely come together. Still, a wealth of information and lots of interesting anecdotes about various members of the U.S. atomic fraternity of the day.
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the worthy successor to Making of the Atomic Bomb -- focusing on Soviet espionage and the development of the Soviet atomic bomb (Joe-1, 1949; their first thermonuclear test Joe-4 in 1953), as well as the US story featuring Edward Teller, Stanislaw Ulam, Oppenheimer, Fermi, and many both familiar and new faces that made the colossal 10.4 megaton Ivy Mike test of 1953 a success. Finally, Rhodes spends the last chapter on exposition and epilogue.

The Soviet nuclear effort benefitted enormous
Nick Black
This is no "The Making of the Atomic Bomb".
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.
Scott Hawkins
A non-fiction book that reads better than the best thrillers, Dark Sun is a masterpiece of research, technical writing, and use of language.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a sequel to Rhode's superb Pulitzer Prize winning "The Making of the Atomic Bomb." I read them back-to-back and recommend reading them in that manner. Many of the same personalities developed in Rhode's first volume were involved in the thermonuclear project and Rhode's assumes the reader is familiar with them.

Without writing a full review I will comment on three areas of special interest to me:
(A) the description of Edward Teller's role in lobbying for and conceptualizing the 'Sup
Bob Koelle
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has so much more than the title suggests. We don't even get to the hydrogen bomb for a couple hundred pages, and I wondered how much overlap there was with Mr. Rhodes first book on the atomic bomb. But that early section is important to retell, since the espionage story drives so much of subsequent events. Fuchs, Gold, Greenglass and the Rosenbergs did so much to keep the Soviets up-to-date about fission research that the drive for the hydrogen bomb after the 1949 Joe 1 detonation was ...more
As the only two atomic bombs ever used in anger finally bring an end to the global conflict, it would be easy to assume that creation of even more destructive weapons would be the last thing anyone would be thinking about. But of course, paradoxically, such assumption would be completely incorrect. In “Dark Sun”, Richard Rhodes tries to explain how and even more importantly, why, just a couple of years after the end of most destructive armed conflict in humanity’s history it found itself at the ...more
Robbie Forkish
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dark Sun by Richard Rhodes is a worthy successor to his Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb. As with his first book, there's a gripping narrative of the people and the science that led to the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. But the parallel story in this book is the spying and espionage of the Soviet Union, and how it accelerated if not enabled the Russian a-bomb and h-bomb in the early 1950s. Rhodes does a tremendous job of setting cultural, political and historical contex ...more
Mar 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I felt bad giving Dark Sun only three stars. I feel that the author, Richard Rhodes, is brilliant. The massive amount of details that he provides in this book is amazing. I found details about developing the hydrogen bomb to be very interesting. But while I feel that Richard Rhodes' other book The Making of the Atomic Bomb to be one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read, I felt that Dark Sun got bogged down with massive amounts of information about Russian spies. I do like spy novels and to ...more
Greg Brown
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rhodes' book on the history of the atomic bomb was a masterpiece; this, on the buildup to the hydrogen bomb, is merely excellent.

The first book has the benefit of a strong through-line and a nice dramatic arc as splitting the atom went from imaginable to possible to inevitable. Reality was more messy for the topics covered here, with Rhodes having to backtrack somewhat to cover Soviet spying on the Manhattan Project that accelerated and enabled their own atomic bomb breakthrough. The American si
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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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