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Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshimaby Stephen Walker
Synopses & Reviews
At 31,000 feet above Japan, Tom Ferebee sits hunched over his bombsight. Below him lies the primary target of an operation called "Special Mission Number 13" by the few military personnel aware of its existence — Hiroshima, a city of over 300,000. He waits until the aiming point is directly below the crosshairs and releases his cargo — a five-ton bomb known as Little Boy by the scientists who built it. If all goes as theorized, the resulting destruction will lead to Japan's surrender and the end of World War II. But right now, a very real question occupies the minds of everyone involved:
Will it work?
The historical record is clear: It did work. On a quiet Monday morning in August 1945, the bomb detonated as expected, resulting in the deaths of nearly 100,000 people. The Japanese Supreme Council surrendered nine days later, after a second bomb, to similarly devastating effect, had leveled Nagasaki. But if, in retrospect, the bombing of Hiroshima represents the climax of one of the signal events of the twentieth century — indeed, in the history of mankind — at the time it was but another episode in an unprecedented drama whose final act had begun three weeks earlier, at Los Alamos, a secret laboratory in the high plains of New Mexico.
Shockwave is the story of those terrible three weeks, as seen through the eyes of the pilots, victims, scientists, and world leaders at the center of the drama. Extraordinary interviews with American and Japanese witnesses tell the story of the bombing of Hiroshima with unparalleled immediacy and veracity — including the story of the copilot, who writes a minute-by-minute diary on board the Enola Gay; the atomic scientist who arms the bomb in midair, equipped with a screwdriver; and the Japanese student desperately searching for his lover in the ruins of the city.
Combining a brilliant gift for storytelling and a keen eye for detail, Walker constructs a shocking and unforgettably moving portrait of an event that changed the world forever.
"The pace of Walker's narrative replicates the frantic advance of August 1945. BBC filmmaker Walker won an Emmy for his documentary on the bombing of Hiroshima and brings precision jump-cuts to this synesthesic account of the 20th century's defining event. Beginning his story three weeks before August 6 (with the first test of a bomb some of its creators speculated might incinerate the earth's atmosphere), Walker takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through the memories of American servicemen, Japanese soldiers and civilians, and the polyglot team of scientists who participated in the Manhattan Project under Gen. Leslie Groves. He establishes the doubts, fears and hopes of the bomb's designers, most of whom participated from a fear that Nazi Germany would break the nuclear threshold first. He nicely retells the story of Japan's selection months before as a target, reflecting the accelerated progress of the war in Europe, and growing concern among U.S. policymakers at the prospect of unthinkable casualties, Japanese as well as American, should an invasion of Japan's 'Home Islands' be necessary. Walker conveys above all the bewilderment of Hiroshima's people, victims of a Japanese government controlled by men determined to continue fighting at all costs. Shockwave's depiction of the consequences invite comparison with John Hershey's still-classic Hiroshima." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Uniquely readable, immediate, and human...Every account of the destruction of Hiroshima is dramatic, but historian and filmmaker Walker has created an exceptionally taut and revealing chronicle." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Dramatic...an important page-turner...admirably evenhanded and smoothly written. (Grade: A-)" Entertainment Weekly
"A meticulous, emotionally devastating portrait of both sides...[Walker] creates an arresting feeling of suspense." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Like John Hersey's Hiroshima, Shockwave brings to life one of history's most profound events. Don't miss it." Arizona Republic
"Highly recommended....[Walker] breathes new life into this story...[his] approach lends a rapid pace and cinematic air to the narrative....Walker's narrative is consistently interesting while also correcting many of the myths long surrounding those horrible days of August that signaled the beginning of a new era." Library Journal
"Superb....Walker writes with a sense of urgency and high drama...engrossing [and] saddening." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[A] heckuva story that's hard to put down — and that's saying a lot for a story where you already know the ending." Rocky Mountain News
British filmmaker and documentary director Stephen Walker tells the story of the bombing of Hiroshima in a new and dramatic way: a minute-by-minute account told from multiple perspectives, including American soldiers, Los Alamos scientists, and Japanese survivors. 16-page b&w photo insert.
About the Author
Stephen Walker directed the award-winning feature film Prisoners in Time (starring John Hurt) and wrote and directed an Emmy Award?winning BBC documentary on the bombing of Hiroshima. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
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