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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2006

National Book Critics Circle Award, Biography, 2006

J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the 20th century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress.

When he proposed international controls over atomic materials, opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb, and criticized plans for a nuclear war, his ideas were anathema to powerful advocates of a massive nuclear buildup during the anti-Communist hysteria of the early 1950s. They declared that Oppenheimer could not be trusted with America's nuclear secrets.

In this magisterial biography, 25 years in the making, the authors capture Oppenheimer's life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War.

©2005 Kai Bird; 2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"The definitive biography...Oppenheimer's life doesn't influence us. It haunts us." ( Newsweek)
"[A] profoundly fascinating, richly complex, and ineffably sad American life.... Bird and Sherwin are without peer...in capturing the humanity of the man." ( Booklist)
"A work of voluminous scholarship and lucid insight, unifying its multifaceted portrait with a keen grasp of Oppenheimer's essential nature.... It succeeds in deeply fathoming his most damaging, self-contradictory behavior." ( New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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    829
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  • 2 Stars
    48
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    28

Performance

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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    375
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    68
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    39

Story

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Fantastic book...

Would you listen to American Prometheus again? Why?

Yes, it's a fascinating story. I'm a sucker for anything atomic bomb related, but Oppenheimer's story is particularly tragic. The guy who brought everyone together, ran the atomic bomb project gets his security clearance revoked less than a decade later in a humiliating show trial.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I would have liked to have heard more about Frank Oppenheimer.

What aspect of Jeff Cummings’s performance would you have changed?

It's not the PERFORMANCE that lacks, it's the editing. Especially names, they're edited with all the style and grace of an outgoing voicemail message. Something something something..........Victor Weisskopf.........yadda yadda yadda. The edits aren't even EQed the same.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A little long

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

No I felt it was a little long winded.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

His childhood and the story of the Manahattan Project.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

To much information for me.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Good book, bad editing

the editing was very distracting - sounded like they made the abridged version and inserted parts left out at a later date for the unabridged. I could even hear the narrator swallowing and clearing his throat.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Well told story, poor technical quality

Would you consider the audio edition of American Prometheus to be better than the print version?

Don't know

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Narration itself was fine, but the sound quality of the recordings was uneven.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I was angered by the political railroading of am entire group of scientists by small minded politicians.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Magisterial biography

Where does American Prometheus rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

A great book; excellent personal portrait, long on legal, shorter than hoped on science; fleshes out a complex, complicated man and his times. One the best biographies I've read.

  • Overall
  • Performance
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A first-rate history, tarnished by poor production

What made the experience of listening to American Prometheus the most enjoyable?

The tale of Oppenheimer displays America's politically and socially unique strengths and weaknesses - acceptance; bigotry; hypocrisy; corrupt, greedy, insincere, and ignorant politicians - in lively, entirely plausible detail.

Who was your favorite character and why?

J. Robert Oppenheimer, at once brilliant but flustered under pressure; socially accepting and simultaneously aloof and haughty; globally farsighted but unable to perceive his own self-inflicted immediate personal peril.

What three words best describe Jeff Cummings’s voice?

Dispassionate but captivating

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

Elevated to great heights by the country he loved, only to be shunned by it from it by the bigoted and corrupt forces who came to control it.

Any additional comments?

Terrible patching-in of acoustically different bits of sentences or sections make it seem as if in some places parts were carelessly changed in ways that disrupt thought. Some characters' names are mispronounced until hours later when the correct pronunciation is pointed out but left unchanged in earlier misreadings. Some major sections have barely a second a second or two's pause from the previous one - a sign of thoughtless or careless production that makes the section break seem less meaningful than a chapter pause.

  • Overall
  • Performance
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  • Adam
  • bunbury, Australia
  • 03-12-14

so long too info heavy heavy

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Only if you like heavy bios

Would you be willing to try another book from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin ? Why or why not?

Maybe

Would you listen to another book narrated by Jeff Cummings?

Nah

Did American Prometheus inspire you to do anything?

Make a big bomb.. Not really

Any additional comments?

Only if you like heavy bios
Got 15 hours in And still talking about his early years with girlfriend

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Susan
  • Gainesville, FL, United States
  • 02-28-14

poor quality performance

Would you try another book from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin and/or Jeff Cummings?

This is an outstanding biography of a fascinating historical figure. But the narrator can't seem to pronounce foreign words (there are a lot of them; Oppenheimer was a cosmopolitan guy who spoke multiple languages), and there are awkward patches in the audio where pronunciations obviously had to be fixed. It's annoying.

  • Overall
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Great Book, Terrible Audio Production

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The audio recording was broken, often changing from one "recording session" to another mid-sentence. The quality was very poor and distracted from the overall enjoyment of the book.

  • Overall
  • Performance
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Poor production quality

How could the performance have been better?

This is my ninth book on Audible and is the only one with anything more than a couple of technical glitches. I lost count on the number of times the quality of the narration noticeably changed, as if it was re-recorded or dubbed over. It's very distracting and disappointing.