• The Bastard Brigade

  • The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies Who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb
  • By: Sam Kean
  • Narrated by: Ben Sullivan
  • Length: 14 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (533 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold story of a renegade group of scientists and spies determined to keep Adolf Hitler from obtaining the ultimate prize: a nuclear bomb

Scientists have always kept secrets. But rarely have the secrets been as vital as they were during World War II. In the middle of building an atomic bomb, the leaders of the Manhattan Project were alarmed to learn that Nazi Germany was far outpacing the Allies in nuclear weapons research; Hitler, with just a few pounds of uranium, would have the capability to reverse the entire D-Day operation and conquer Europe. So they assembled a rough and motley crew of geniuses - dubbed the Alsos Mission - and sent them careening into Axis territory to spy on, sabotage, and even assassinate members of Nazi Germany's feared Uranium Club. No theater of the war, from battlefields to laboratories, was considered off-limits, and for good reason: the entire outcome of the war rested on its shoulders. 

The details of the mission rival the finest spy thriller, but it's the incredible characters - both heroes and rogues alike - who make this story sing. There's an ex-Major League baseball catcher turned clandestine spy. There's Joe Kennedy Jr., who died trying to out-macho his kid brother, future president John F. Kennedy. There's a Dutch physicist who, while hunting down top German scientists, also needed to save his Jewish parents from the concentration camps. There are Nobel Prize winners like Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein, and Irène Joliot-Curie, daughter of Marie Curie. And dozens more. Thrust into the dark world of international espionage, these scientists and soldiers played a vital and largely untold role in turning back one of the darkest tides in human history. 

"Richly informative.... Once again, Kean proves his mettle as one of science literature's most gifted practitioners." (Booklist

"Riveting.... Kean has a knack for distilling chemistry to its essential elements, using stories and humor.... this is a dose of fresh air. (Library Journal

"Compelling stuff, written with verve and in a style that veers between simple lightheartedness and open jocularity.... Eminently accessible and enjoyable." (Robin McKie, The Guardian)

©2019 Sam Kean (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Entertaining...with sly wit and boyish wonder." (Discover Magazine

"Kean is one of America's smartest and most charming science writers, and his new book could be perfect for summer readers who prefer some substance with their fun." (Michael Schaub, National Public Radio) 

"A science journalist with a flair for words...[Kean's] language is fluid and accessible, even for the science-challenged." (Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

What listeners say about The Bastard Brigade

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Awesome

Absolutely LOVED IT. Well written, great performance, educational, and wildly entertaining. Sam Kean nailed it.

8 people found this helpful

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Required reading!

Sam Kean has done it again. Every science student or history buff should read this riveting account of the intense espionage work and sacrifices made to keep atomic weapons from being developed by the Nazi-era scientists. From the babbling Niels Bohr, to catcher-spy Moe Berg, to the famous Curie family and their misinterpretation of lab results, to the exploits of the Alsos mission, Kean brings to life the stories that shaped our world.

6 people found this helpful

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A True Story that reminded me how close we came...

I keep telling people about this book and how the slightest twist in the arc of history might have made me a German Speaker today. Thrilling. Challenging. There are a great many players and it is hard to keep track but eventually, you see how it all came together and how each one of these people played their part; whether great or small. The author made the science make sense. If you can handle the technical stuff, you will not be disappointed. Anyone who has seen the movie or read the book, "The Heros of Telemark" will enjoy an extra treat at being part of that unbelievable operation in WWII.

5 people found this helpful

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Technical and no such brigade

8 hrs into the book and the story follows no specific group or “brigade” which was charged with eliminating nazi scientists. People are mentioned and forgotten for chapters on end only to be rehashed later on. This is more a broad coverage of the nazi nuclear program asks the American/British ignorance to acknowledge such a program existed in the classic they know that we know that they know story. The story is fairly technical and read well but lacks any real direct story.

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting stories, could have been better

There are a lot of behind the scenes views of scientists and spies, all working from their own motivations, to achieve the goals they felt were right. The moral relativism is fairly dripping from the pages when relating the reasoning of "the good guys". Some of them are noble, some are petty, a lot of them are both. This book brings a lot of their stories together, though not entirely cohesively. There is some intermingling, but oftentimes just disjointed. And personally, I could have done without the feeble attempts at humor and hip patter. Altogether, enjoyable stories, but a book not likely to be revisited.

2 people found this helpful

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A GREAT LISTEN

I really enjoyed the history behind the science and the personalities of all those involved. It's a side of the war I never really thought about. I'm listening again to hear what I missed the first time. Very enjoyable!

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent book. Riveting history you do not know!

An excellent history of the discovery of fission and the transatlantic race to weaponize it. lots of skuldugary on both sides, an excellent story of OSS operations in Europe and the roles of several Physics titans outside of the Manhattan project kids!

1 person found this helpful

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Sam Kean’s first novelesque science history

As always, Sam Kean engages his readers with science adventure and compelling storylines. Excellent book with many characters well developed and interwoven. While the audiobook is delightful, a physical copy of the list of names proves helpful to fully appreciate Kean’s fantastic work.

1 person found this helpful

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Little known espionage during ww2

Narration is clear, nuanced, and pleasant.

Information interesting, informative, and helpful for understanding complicated personalities and interpersonal dynamics among key players.

1 person found this helpful

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Sam's Best Yet

Who knew a story about the atom bomb and WW2 could be so entertaining and informative. Facinating stories of scientists, soldiers and spies this feels like a novel but it's true. Sam's use of humor aids in the experience and the narration is flawless!

1 person found this helpful