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Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety | [Eric Schlosser]

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. A groundbreaking account of accidents, near misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved - and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind.
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Publisher's Summary

A myth-shattering exposé of America's nuclear weapons.

Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. A groundbreaking account of accidents, near misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved - and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind. While the harms of global warming increasingly dominate the news, the equally dangerous yet more immediate threat of nuclear weapons has been largely forgotten.

Written with the vibrancy of a first-rate thriller, Command and Control interweaves the minute-by-minute story of an accident at a nuclear missile silo in rural Arkansas with a historical narrative that spans more than 50 years. It depicts the urgent effort by American scientists, policy makers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons can't be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently. Schlosser also looks at the Cold War from a new perspective, offering history from the ground up, telling the stories of bomber pilots, missile commanders, maintenance crews, and other ordinary servicemen who risked their lives to avert a nuclear holocaust. At the heart of the book lies the struggle, amid the rolling hills and small farms of Damascus, Arkansas, to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States.

Drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with people who designed and routinely handled nuclear weapons, Command and Control takes readers into a terrifying but fascinating world that, until now, has been largely hidden from view. Through the details of a single accident, Schlosser illustrates how an unlikely event can become unavoidable, how small risks can have terrible consequences, and how the most brilliant minds in the nation can only provide us with an illusion of control. Audacious, gripping, and unforgettable, Command and Control is a tour de force of investigative journalism, an eye-opening look at the dangers of America's nuclear age.

©2013 Eric Schlosser (P)2013 Penguin Audio

What Members Say

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  •  
    Teresa PALM SPRINGS, CA, United States 01-20-14
    Teresa PALM SPRINGS, CA, United States 01-20-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Keystone Cops manage our nuclear arsenal"

    How can anyone trust our government to tell the truth or to manage affairs competently after listening this? It's just a matter of time before we also have "the illusion of health care" and "the illusion of education."
    My only problem was the jumping around. I'm sure it works in the print book, but it got a little confusing in an audiobook. However, Scott Brick did his usual fabulous job.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark T Portland, OR 01-14-14
    Mark T Portland, OR 01-14-14 Member Since 2010

    Audible books are the perfect companion for my 4 mile morning walk!

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    "This is an AMAZING book - read it!"
    Would you listen to Command and Control again? Why?

    I won't listen to it again. But I have bought the Kindle version so that I can study parts of it in more detail.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    It was a fascinating way of structuring the story, integrating "accident" chapters with "history" chapters. Took some getting used to, but it was an effective way to cover an enormous amount of material without getting bored.


    What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

    A very solid performance through the whole book. No odd changes in voice or silly pronunciation problems that I've seen crop up in many books.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    "Just Because You Were Lucky Doesn't Mean You Were Smart."


    Any additional comments?

    The story of the history of nuclear weapons is still very relevant today, albeit not in a Cold War context. But it's also very relevant in terms of how we should think about a range of highly complex technologies going forward. They may not have the potential to instantly level a city, but they pose risks that need to be thought about. This story makes that abundantly clear!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. R. King Texas 12-21-13
    D. R. King Texas 12-21-13 Member Since 2012

    Complex realist

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    "Fascinating documentary like book on the Cold War"
    Where does Command and Control rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the most interesting non-fiction audiobooks I've listened to thus far... Fast paced and never dull.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    We really lost, burnt, destroyed and screwed up THAT MANY nuclear warheads? Only by the grace of God did we not blow ourselves up by accident.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter C. Westchester, NY 12-18-13
    Peter C. Westchester, NY 12-18-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Fantastic and Utterly Terrifying"
    What made the experience of listening to Command and Control the most enjoyable?

    The narrator was great. It felt like it was both an interesting overview of the the history of Command and Control as well as a compelling story.


    Any additional comments?

    A truly compelling audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    GORDON GHENT, NY, United States 12-08-13
    GORDON GHENT, NY, United States 12-08-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Must read/listen book"
    What did you love best about Command and Control?

    History not much known.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Entire book was a real spellbinding story


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    One setting book


    Any additional comments?

    If u like history and suspense get this audio book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Rock Hill, SC, United States 11-22-13
    Tim Rock Hill, SC, United States 11-22-13 Member Since 2006
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    "difficult time line"
    Would you listen to Command and Control again? Why?

    Maybe ... it is very confusing that the author goes back and forth in time ... back and forth between stories. This might be a book better read than listened to.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victor Kristiansand, Norway 11-15-13
    Victor Kristiansand, Norway 11-15-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Spectacular!"
    If you could sum up Command and Control in three words, what would they be?

    This is a masterful telling of a very complicated and involved story.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The mix of history, technology, and personalities.


    What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

    Scott Brick is, as always, a great, great reader.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 11-15-13
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 11-15-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Engrossing"
    Any additional comments?

    Reads like a thriller. Quite amazing how close we came to nuclear disaster on multiple occasions and those are only the tales from our side. A well told story that interweaves in detail a mishap at an ICBM silo with a history of nuclear weapons safety and close calls. Chilling!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-05-13
    Tim Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-05-13 Member Since 2011
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    "A very important subject"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    This is a fascinating and important subject so I do not regret my time listening to it, but I felt the book would have been more effective had it simply been shorter. The author lists many, many incidents when a summary of them might have sufficed and spends way too much time on the Damascus incident, dragging it out through the whole book.
    His history of the bomb and the use of nuclear arms was excellent, especially when he focused on characters such as Curtis Le May.
    The author has apparently made a philosophical decision to name every single bit player involved, including how many children each one had and how old his wife was. I can understand his desire to honor these people, but it quickly became tedious and verbose. Obviously, with men who were central to the events at Damascus such as Livingstone and Kennedy it made sense, but I found most of it confusing and meaningless.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Tariffville, CT, United States 11-04-13
    Thomas Tariffville, CT, United States 11-04-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Very Interesting Listen"

    I picked this up as I have some other books along this line that I am reading. This book is a must read if you have ever had any interest in knowing how the system developed, decisions, successes, failures and current risks.

    Scott Brick does an amazing job for this book and its style.

    The story was good, but one ding. In the middle of the book the examples while important just seemed to over emphasize. There is reason, but just one thought after finishing this one in a couple of days. The facts are interwoven through the story. **Spoiler** Sorta
    Ross Perot makes an appearance.. I never knew that about Ross Perot.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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