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Download The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy, by David E. Hoffman, David Hoffman Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (713 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David E. Hoffman, David Hoffman Narrator: Bob Walter Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The Cold War was an epoch of massive overkill. In the last half of the twentieth century the two superpowers had perfected the science of mass destruction and possessed nuclear weapons with the combined power of a million Hiroshimas. What’s more, a Soviet biological warfare machine was ready to produce bacteria and viruses to sicken and kill millions. In The Dead Hand, a thrilling narrative history drawing on new archives and original research and interviews, David E. Hoffman reveals how presidents, scientists, diplomats, soldiers, and spies confronted the danger and changed the course of history. 

The Dead Hand captures the inside story in both the United States and the Soviet Union, giving us an urgent and intimate account of the last decade of the arms race. With access to secret Kremlin documents, Hoffman chronicles Soviet internal deliberations that have long been hidden. He reveals that weapons designers in 1985 laid a massive “Star Wars” program on the desk of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to compete with President Reagan, but Gorbachev refused to build it. He unmasks the cover-up of the Soviet biological weapons program. He tells the exclusive story of one Soviet microbiologist’s quest to build a genetically engineered super-germ—it would cause a mild illness, a deceptive recovery, then a second, fatal attack. And he details the frightening history of the Doomsday Machine, known as the Dead Hand, which would launch a retaliatory nuclear strike if the Soviet leaders were wiped out. 

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the dangers remained. Soon rickety trains were hauling unsecured nuclear warheads across the Russian steppe; tons of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium lay unguarded in warehouses; and microbiologists and bomb designers were scavenging for food to feed their families. 

The Dead Hand offers fresh and startling insights into Reagan and Gorbachev, the two key figures of the end of the Cold War, and draws colorful, unforgettable portraits of many others who struggled, often valiantly, to save the world from the most terrifying weapons known to man.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Nick | 2/10/2014

    " We don't hear much about weapons of mass destruction these days, but this history of the Cold War arms race and its aftermath is a warning bell that much needs to be done, not only to abolish nuclear weapons, but also chemical and biological weapons and stocks of enriched uranium and plutonium. Hoffman lays out in plain language the extent of unsecured weapons, weapons-grade materials and scientists and technicians who are able to make more of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jeff Rosendahl | 1/28/2014

    " A great book for Cold War historians. Similar to "One Minute to Midnight" in that it's amazing in hindsight to realize how much the US and USSR misunderstood each other. Hoffman writes that the USSR concealed massive biological and chemical weapons programs that only came to light recently even though they denied having these programs. His writing about these weapons and the nuclear weapons that were basically left lying around when the USSR dissolved is scary...almost to the point where it's remarkable we're still around at all. Makes great points about Reagan and Gorbachev not being nearly as deal-making on strategic arms as we believe. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kevin | 1/28/2014

    " "Chilling! If you thought that Dr Strangelove was just a comedy with no basis in fact. Think again. During the Cold War, the Soviets did have a doomsday device. They also continued with the production of civilization ending biological warfare agents until well into the 1990's. These are but a few of the shocking revelations in Hoffman's book. But perhaps scariest of all is the greatest danger came well after the fall of the Soviet Union. Loose nukes, destitute scientists, and leaking bio-bombs. Gave me the shivers! " "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Ryan | 1/28/2014

    " Pretty fascinating, and extremely scary. My only complaint might be that it focuses on the Soviet side of things, and doesn't go into depth about the nuclear control systems or internal power struggles around nuclear management in the U.S. Still, the peek behind the Soviet system is scary, and shows how a small misunderstanding could have triggered nuclear war. Nice brief history of Gorbachev, too, who I didn't know too much about, but who I respect more now for trying to pull his country back from the brink. He failed in a way, but he also succeeded in a way. "

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