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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 Audiobook, by David E. Hoffman Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.09 out of 54.09 out of 54.09 out of 54.09 out of 54.09 out of 5 4.09 (23 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David E. Hoffman, David Hoffman Narrator: Bob Walter Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2009 ISBN: 9781415967348
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The Dead Hand is the suspense-filled story of the people who sought to brake the speeding locomotive of the arms race, then rushed to secure the nuclear and biological weapons left behind by the collapse of the Soviet Union—a dangerous legacy that haunts us even today.

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

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matt | 2/13/2014

    " Really great book on the Cold War arms race - and why the problems that seemed to have ended in 1991 are still haunting us today. Very readable and unbelievably haunting. (The title of the book - The Dead Hand - is the name the Soviets gave to a nuclear response system that was 100% automated and run by a series of satellites and computers that nearly ended life on earth several times. The system would, upon warning of a launch from the US, launch a missile that would fly across the Soviet Union, beaming a code to all the nuclear missiles in their silos to launch.) Also a fascinating expose of the Soviet biological weapons program - despite the US abandoning all interest in biological weapons early on in the cold war (and abiding by all the treaties banning their development for military purposes), the Soviets, victims of their own paranoia and style of thinking, could not believe the US would give up the program, and raced ahead - creating the world's most advanced diseases and toxins, mainly centered around super-strains of anthrax, plague and smallpox. All of these still exist today, sitting in dilapidated warehouses... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrew Glasgow | 2/12/2014

    " This is a fascinating story of the cold war drawn from sources that were previously unavailable. Along the way, we get some penetrating glimpses of the personalities who held the world's fate in their hands. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jacob Carter | 1/30/2014

    " Very interesting but a little laborious at some points. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 1/26/2014

    " I didn't get a chance to finish this as my life is just too busy to process this dense information, but WOW! I'm glad to know I was naive and shielded from all that went on during the cold war. Anthrax outbreaks in the Soviet Union, the U.S. feeding misinformation to them which resulted in one of the largest non-nuclear explosions and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Well documented and fascinating. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gary | 1/26/2014

    " It's no wonder this book won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. This book covers both the previously understood about the US-Soviet arms race, but also includes some startling information that only came to light with its publication. Anyone interested in nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons should read this book. This is an outstanding contribution to the history of the Cold War arms race and the implications that actions taken in those years still have for us today. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jubilee | 1/23/2014

    " Very educational and well written. This book puts the cold war into perceptive and it demonstrates how overblown it was. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 thistlepong | 1/22/2014

    " An exhaustive and sometimes exhausting report of the persons, weapons, and events of the latter portion of the Cold War and the efforts that escalated and attempted to end it. The title refers to a Soviet system intended to allow retaliation by remote control in the event of a devastating United States first strike. Told as a jouncing narrative, the author cuddles up to some key figures, like Reagan, while describing actions and opinions that needlessly endangered our lives. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aaron Jordan | 1/16/2014

    " One of the best books about the Cold War that I am aware of. It covers some of the same material as Richard Rhodes's Arsenals of Folly, but The Dead Hand is a much better book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chingiz | 1/11/2014

    " really liked the history of Kazakhstan, especially about Baikonur, Stepnogorsk, Sary-Shagan, Vozrojdenie island. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joey | 1/10/2014

    " Probably a little longer than it needed to be and I started to lose interest at the halfway mark. Interesting subject and the writer is skilled but the narrative was a little drawn out. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Terri | 12/18/2013

    " Very well researched and readable account of secret Russian nuclear and (most scary) biowarfare programs and how arms control agreements were reached. Also the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Reagan. Some interesting tidbits about our current defense secretary, Gates. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Scott | 12/16/2013

    " Meh. A disjointed narrative loosely stitched together. The content is good, but it felt like a draft- the author repeated himself in places and retold stories... Good info and thoroughly frightening, but presentation was lacking. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kees | 12/10/2013

    " Probably one of the best contemporary history books I have read in a long time. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the period. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tyler | 12/19/2012

    " Horrifyingly great read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alex | 7/9/2012

    " Great book on the Cold War arms race and look inside the inner workings of the Soviet nuclear and biological weapons programs. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Taja | 5/3/2012

    " Excellent, informative and well balanced account of the cold war arms race. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Greg Brown | 3/12/2012

    " A fantastic overview of the '80s and '90s of Cold War nuclear politics, with chilling information about the biological and chemical programs undergone by the USSR at the same time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jonnie | 5/10/2011

    " The rating should be more like a 4.5; there were just a few places where it dragged a little. I would recommend this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nathan | 5/1/2011

    " This book is a chilling look at the nuclear and biological weapons programs of the Soviet Union and the remaining danger to civilization. I finished the book with a sense of alarm at how easily a lone terrorist could use a form of these weapons to inflict great harm. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jack | 3/9/2011

    " Scary. The world is not safe. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Greg | 1/2/2011

    " A fantastic overview of the '80s and '90s of Cold War nuclear politics, with chilling information about the biological and chemical programs undergone by the USSR at the same time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gwynne | 12/13/2010

    " I listened to this book via CD (a first for me). A comprehensive exploration of the Cold War Arms Race. Way more than I needed to know for my research but definitely worth hearing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Terri | 12/5/2010

    " Very well researched and readable account of secret Russian nuclear and (most scary) biowarfare programs and how arms control agreements were reached. Also the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Reagan. Some interesting tidbits about our current defense secretary, Gates. "

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About the Author
Author David E. HoffmanDavid E. Hoffman is a contributing editor at The Washington Post and a correspondent for PBS's flagship investigative series, FRONTLINE. He is the author of The Dead Hand, about the end of the Cold War arms race, and winner of a 2010 Pulitzer Prize. He lives with his wife in Maryland.
About the Narrator

Bob Walter is a producer, director, and audiobook narrator. He is best known for his work as a music producer and sound effects designer for the movies Halloween, The Little Brave Toaster, and Apocalypse Now. His audiobook narrations include several nonfiction and fiction titles from Hachette, Random House, and HarperCollins, among others.