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For other authors named Annie Jacobsen, see the disambiguation page.

12 Works 2,644 Members 90 Reviews

About the Author

Annie Jacobsen is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Area 51 and Operation Paperclip and the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Pentagon's Brain. She was a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine and is a graduate of Princeton University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband show more and two sons. show less
Image credit: By Slowking - Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31359626

Works by Annie Jacobsen


American history (44) Area 51 (28) audiobook (18) aviation (10) CIA (25) Cold War (55) conspiracy (14) conspiracy theory (10) currently-reading (8) DARPA (17) ebook (21) ESP (11) espionage (27) Germany (13) government (10) history (175) history of science (9) intelligence (14) Kindle (23) military (76) military history (52) Nazi (9) Nazis (14) Nevada (21) NF (10) non-fiction (156) paranormal (12) politics (16) read (11) science (39) scientists (9) spy (8) technology (14) to-read (264) UFO (32) US history (17) USA (32) Vietnam War (9) war (15) WWII (66)

Common Knowledge



The middle 350 pages are interesting history of technology. The last 30 pages is bonkers.
rhbouchard | 40 other reviews | Jul 13, 2024 |
Scary as hell! Don't know what was wrong with me that I even read this. Very well written, paced like a thriller.
ktrout70 | 6 other reviews | Jul 8, 2024 |
Stunning. Terrifying. This is a must read for every person around the world who has any power at all for using and/or not using weapons of war or terrorism, and not just the nuclear ones. I think it’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

The book is extremely well researched! It’s impressive how the author was able to interview so many knowledgeable people. The scenario given in the book hasn’t happened so it’s fictional but every other aspect of the book is nonfiction.

It is a step by step narrative and I suppose some readers might find the minutiae of details dry but it was a page turner for me; it read like a thriller.

It’s a scenario of what all out nuclear war would do. I knew a lot but some effects were ones I hadn’t considered. Chemical weapons are also used in the fictional scenario as is a weapon that would forever send us back to stone age living.

That weapon is a small nuclear warhead on a satellite that could destroy the country’s entire power grid indefinitely (forever if combined with nuclear destruction) with a high-altitude (300 miles) electromagnetic pulse (airburst EMP) if detonated over the United States, in this case over Omaha, Nebraska. Even without all out nuclear war it says that within a year this could lead to the deaths of up to 90% of all Americans. (called the Doomsday Scenario) and then goes on to describe that scenario and it was just as horrifying as the horror of the effects of nuclear weapons.

“Humans are wired to advance. Humans do whatever it takes. And yet, nuclear war zeros it all out. Nuclear weapons reduce human brilliance and ingenuity, love and desire, empathy an intellect, to ash.” (I always knew that if there was a nuclear attack I’d want to be at ground zero and reading this book validated that.)

If North Korea attacks us and we send nuclear warheads to them in retaliation and to try to cripple them to prevent additional attacks our missiles have to go right over Russian territory, with very little time to let Russia know we are not aiming at them. What could go wrong? This book gives a scenario.

I’ve read other books about nuclear war including Hiroshima by John Hersey, The War Game by Peter Watkins and Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard. They were all great but I think this one is the best of the bunch.

This scenario is one of the worst case ones and sadly likely the most plausible outcome.

12,000 years stone age to creating advanced civilization could be gone in minutes/hours. I wanted to quote a lot of the book including all of the last few pages and the Acknowledgments.

Throughout the book there are gray sections with “History Lessons” and they are fascinating and informative.

The book is well organized!

I appreciated the photos, maps and other images that are included throughout the book.

The wrong people have been and are in charge. I was appalled at the plans that at times have been put in place. It’s the opposite of what the public has been told. We need to be careful about who we put in charge. Even with the best people in charge there could be disaster.

“The U.S. President – as odd as this may seem – has sole authority to launch America’s nuclear weapons. The President asks permission of no one.” Though this scenario shows how this might not always be true and shows how the President can pass the buck.

As I read I both wanted everyone 17 and up to read it and wanted to protect people from reading it. I can’t imagine being a parent of a minor child and having to contemplate this potential nightmare in such excruciating detail.

Author’s Note
Prologue: Hell on Earth
Part 1: The Buildup (Or, How We Got Here)
Part II: The First 24 Minutes
Part III: The Next 24 Minutes
Part IV: The Next (and Final) 24 Minutes
Part V: The Next 24 Months and Beyond (Or, Where We Are Headed after a Nuclear Exchange)

I read the hardcover edition and also simultaneously listened to the audio edition which is excellent and is read by the author.
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Lisa2013 | 6 other reviews | Jul 4, 2024 |

I didn’t realize how much I read about the development of nuclear war capability, and the after effects of a nuclear war, compared to the conduction of a nuclear war.

Of the 90 or so books I read last year, my favorite non-fiction was Richard Rhodes’ 1987 THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB. It describes in close detail the scientific history leading up to the development of the most powerful bombs ever developed, at the time. DARK SUN, the sequel, which describes the sequel to the Bomb (the Super) is on my list to read.

In fiction, post-apocalypse stories are some of my favorite. THE ROAD is perhaps my favorite book, and takes place after some world-ending cataclysm (which is left ambiguous, but reads nuclear to me). On the other end of the spectrum, the video game series (and now TV show) FALLOUT has been one of my favorites for years upon years.

There’s a theory about why we haven’t encountered alien life called the Great Filter. It imagines that something makes it extremely difficult for life to progress to such a stage as to develop into something we would or could identify. Civilization-ending nuclear war (e.g., any and all nuclear war, Annie Jacobsen writes) could be a possible filtration event for our species. It would also be a filter through which survivors pass.

I read parts of this book sitting in Meridian Hill Park in Washington, D.C., about 2 miles north of the White House. After each section, I looked up to watch dogs playing, people running around, a little kid pick up a stick. I imagined what it would look like if these were instantly turned to carbon following a bright flash, all grass and trees around me vaporized instantly, the stoneworks and roads turned molten. In D.C., helicopters are constantly passing. Big Sikorsky VH-3Ds frequently pass over the Park, and each time I imagine that the President must be on it (who knows?). A large helicopter passed in the distance and I watched it and imagined being in the back cabin as the first pure white silent flash of a nuclear detonation blinded me. Not having time to understand that words like “time” and “reality” would no longer have any meaning to anyone nearby. Perhaps anyone, anywhere, if the scenario this book describes were to occur.

I told my mom what I was reading and she asked if it made me nervous. No, I live 1.5 miles from the White House. If a nuclear bomb is detonated, most likely I will be dead before anyone could hear it. Then again, I live in a basement, so perhaps I would live for a while crushed under the building. Or maybe I would be lucky and the force of the detonation would blow all of the buildings totally away and leave me with a view of the gray, fire-lit skies. Lucky enough to die imminently of radiation poisoning. Hm.

What makes me nervous is that everyone interviewed for the book knows that this situation doesn’t work. Everyone. No one thinks it is a good idea for nuclear bombs to exist. At best they deter other people from using nuclear bombs. In a way, deterrence does less to guarantee that no one will ever use one, and more to guarantee that if anyone ever detonates one, everyone will detonate all that they have.

There are a few scenes in the book where leadership fret about what appears weak and strong following the detonation. That is to say, once where I am sitting right now ceases to exist and once what survivors of government and military there are sheltered in Raven Rock pondering the end of humanity and proportional response. I had to set the book down and think about this. Is anyone concerned about looking weak after taking an intercontinental ballistic missile to the cranium? I thought it sounded a little unrealistic. Then I got nervous because it sounds a little too realistic.

I am not sure what else to say about the book. The long and short of it is, if there’s ever a mistake or madness that leads to a nuclear launch (let alone detonation), there’s a good chance that no one will ever say anything ever again. Or see, hear, or think anything ever again. At least not after a few months for the few survivors to starve to death. They might think of a few things. One of them might be, “oops.”

But probably not.
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ThomasEB | 6 other reviews | Jul 4, 2024 |



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