• The Dead Hand

  • The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy
  • By: David E. Hoffman
  • Narrated by: Bob Walter
  • Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (45 ratings)

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The Dead Hand  By  cover art

The Dead Hand

By: David E. Hoffman
Narrated by: Bob Walter
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Publisher's summary

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 20th 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.

©2009 David E. Hoffman (P)2009 Random House
  • Abridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"A stunning feat of research and narrative. Terrifying." (John le Carré)

What listeners say about The Dead Hand

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent and terrifying.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

If that friend has an interest in Cold War politics and the politics around WMD development and use (safe to say most do not) then absolutely.

Have you listened to any of Bob Walter’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not. I have since purchased another book he narrated though, I enjoyed him.

Any additional comments?

The subject is a bit scary and I don't think a lot of people realize just how bad the USSR was at disposing of or securing their WMD as the collapse of their government happened.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

frightening beyond imagination

one of the most frightening hisotrical accounts i listened to since the rise and fall of the thrid rich.I do not know what to say this story left me disturbed to the core, I mean litteraly a world ending semi automatic response to a "threat"! -I could not stop listning in the same way you just need to look at traffic accident. Moreover the accounts of the Soviet biowarfare program left an indellable mark on my conscience-In my opion this technology represents a much greater terror threat than the use of nuclear weapons-ponder this an engineered super germ resistant to all vaccienes and treatment without the teltale blast of a nuclear weapon. this isnt horror fantasy beacuse the Soviet war machine developed and deployed these nightmare weapons up unitl the 90's! As to the story and writting it was overall very good. However there was a bit of disjointment one second we are discussing some terrible secret bio weapon the next we are talking about removing short range nuclear missles from europe. I kind of felt that there was enough marrow in this account to write three seperate books instead of sewing three parallel histories into one volume.
I would not hesitate to recomend this to anyone.

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