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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
Categories: History, European
5 out of 5 stars (182 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 members say

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  • Overall
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Awesome

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

3 of 3 people found this review 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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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informative and captivating!

I couldn't wait to hear more. I found it so informative and I loved listening.

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Wonderful Storytelling

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and learned not just of the fascinating history but also the science behind the nuclear bomb. I considered myself knowledgeable before but learned that I really knew nothing. I’m amazed at how deftly the author weaves the science, the military, and historical figures together in a fascinating tale. I loved this book.

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Great book!

Very informative, I learned a lot from this book, very detailed and accurate, the author did not leave anything it.

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Unbelievable

Incredibly written. Found my jaw agape at least once a chapter. Insane tales from an insane time.

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engaging and informatics

This is a wonderful accounting about how nuclear fission came to be. The author is engageing, entertaining, historical, and very informative. The author is able to weave the frailties that humanity often faces with the science and historical accounting of the circumstances surrounding the A-bomb.

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Atomic Stories

As time moves farther away from WW2, you would think there would be fewer stories, less to say. This is far from the case. Governments, soldiers, agents and every day ordinary folks reveal their stories and adventures before memories slip away forever. Hindsight becomes sharper for it. This is a great story full of flawed but brilliant dedicated people. Well written, well told and a fascinating story.

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  • Frank
  • Mill Cree, Washington
  • 08-04-19

Amazing!

The characters can be a bit difficult to follow, but it's a very good book. I learned so much about WWII.

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  • Artman
  • Harrisburg, PA USA
  • 08-01-19

Gripping narrative

The story of the race between the allies and Nazi Germany to create a nuclear weapon. It is told through the experience of the individuals involved. Couldn't put it down.