Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry

by Nathan Hodge

Synopses & Reviews
ISBN13: 9781596913783
ISBN10: 1596913789

Review-a-Day (What is Review-a-Day?)

"In their new book, A Nuclear Family Vacation, Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger quote Tom Vanderbilt's aphorism that 'all wars end in tourism.' Because World War III may leave no tourists behind, Hodge and Weinberger, a husband-and-wife journalistic team, wisely decide to get their nuclear tourism in beforehand by visiting nuclear sites in 10 U.S. states and 5 countries. The idea that they are tourists is something of a conceit, though: They visit many sites that would be closed to the rest of us, prepare for road trips by reading government reports rather than Fodor's travel guides, and score interviews with senior officials everywhere they go." Hugh Gusterson, American Scientist (read the entire American Scientist review)

Synopses & Reviews
Publisher Comments:

Two Washington, D.C., defense reporters do for nukes what Sarah Vowell did for presidential assassinations in this fascinating, kaleidoscopic portrait of nuclear weaponry.

In A Nuclear Family Vacation, husband-and-wife journalists Sharon Weinberger and Nathan Hodge hit the open road to explore the secretive world of nuclear weaponry. Along the way, they answer the questions most nuclear tourists dont get to ask: Are nuclear weapons still on hair-trigger alert? Is there such a thing as a suitcase nuke? Is Iran really building the bomb?

Together, Weinberger and Hodge visit top-secret locations like the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility in Iran, the United States Kwajalein military outpost in the Marshall Islands, the Y-12 facility in Tennessee, and “Site R,” a bunker known as the “Underground Pentagon,” rumored to be Vice President Cheneys personal “undisclosed location” of choice. Their atomic road trip reveals plans to revitalize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, even as the United States pushes other countries to disarm. Weaving together travel writing with world-changing events, A Nuclear Family Vacation unearths unknownand often quite entertainingstories about the nuclear world.


"With the end of the Cold War, a drastically downsized nuclear weapons establishment has suffered an antiapocalypse — missile silos abandoned and crumbling, shell-shocked industry survivors bereft of a reason to go on. In this adventure in 'nuclear tourism,' the husband-and-wife authors, both defense journalists, poke through the rubble for signs of life. Their itinerary includes deserted test sites in Nevada and Kazakhstan; a West Virginia hotel whose basement conceals a blast-proof bunker once intended to house Congress; an Iranian uranium-processing facility; and an active missile-launch site in Wyoming.

They interview weapon scientists and generals to understand why aging nuclear arsenals are retained and revamped without a rival superpower, and uncover a gamut of rationales: national paranoia in Russia, at the Pentagon mystifying world-is-flat globalization theory. Framing this inquiry as a travelogue is a bit gimmicky: nuclear installations are functional, drab and unevocative, so for color the authors often fall back on Borat-esque culture-clash comedy or the absurdist security rigmaroles they endure. But they do convey an acute sense of the incoherence of latter-day nuclear strategizing. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)


“[Hodge and Weinberger] succeed admirably in reminding us that nuclear weapons have "never really gone away" and in calling attention to the crucial public debates that are not taking place. The questions they pose are significant and overdue; the answers they receive unsettling…They remind us that the purpose and future of our nuclear arsenal are too important to be left to those whose jobs remain dependent upon its perpetuation.”

Chicago Tribune “A Nuclear Family Vacation is an eye-opening read for anyone who thinks that nuclear weapons are a thing of the past.” Nerve

“How are you spending your next holiday? Tired of the same old thing? You might want to pick a different destination from A Nuclear Family Vacation, a new book and travel guide by veteran defence reporters Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger.

This husband-and-wife team take the reader on a rapid, darkly comic tour of nuclear weapons sites across the world. A rare achievement in a nuclear policy book, their narrative demystifies an intimidating topic for a broad audience without sacrificing substance. Instead of pontificating on thermonuclear war, Hodge and Weinberger give us an eye-level view, often through their car window…the book sparkles with anecdotes and insights. It is well worth the trip.” Nature

“Some people trek to Machu Picchu, some dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Those of us interested in nuclear issues visit the monuments and precincts of the Bomb. Such are husband-and-wife journalists Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger.” New Scientist

“In A Nuclear Family Vacation, a husband-and-wife duo of Washington, DC-based defense reporters takes a journey deep into the nation's nuclear weapons complex. But waitthis turns out to be a surprisingly fun road trip.” Mother Jones

“In this off-the-uncontaminated-path adventure, Sharon Weinberger and Nathan Hodge make nuclear vacationing seem fun, in a weirdly exhilarating way. They are the slightly obsessed tour guides holding the microphones at the front of the security-cleared bus. Together, the experts lead us across a neglected, mismanaged, and forgotten past, pointing out the history of doomsday weaponry along the way. A Nuclear Family Vacation is a shocking reminder that the Cold War isnt over; its just transformed into something else that we dont have a name for yet.”Robert Sullivan, author of Cross Country and Rats

“A vacation for some, a nightmare for others. Either way, well worth reading.” Kirkus Reviews

“Exhibiting dark humor, defense journalists Hodge and Weinberger take a tour of Americas nuclear-weapons infrastructure, visiting labs, plants, bunkers, missile silos, and ground zeros of nuclear explosions.”


“In this adventure in ‘nuclear tourism, the husband-and-wife authors…convey an acute sense of the incoherence of latter-day nuclear strategizing.”Publishers Weekly

“Nuclear tourism is an effective and interesting way of canvassing issues we face today. Reading A Nuclear Family Vacation is a good way to learn more about the history of nuclear weapons and become conversant with our current situation.

Hodge and Weinberger have done the legwork to back up their common-sense conclusions.”Defense Technology International “Under­lying their journey into our nuclear past is an earnest and thoughtful discussion of our nuclear presentand future…They identify a troubling lack of a cohesive national nuclear policy and remark that “much of the infrastructure supporting nuclear weapons continues to exist merely because no one has come up with a compelling reason to shut it down.” One can imagine an updated version of A Nuclear Family Vacation in which the two visit sites in Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Israel, Russia, France, Great Britain, and heaven knows where else. The itinerary is not as finite as one would like; in fact, it seems to be growing. But there would be some comfort in having these sober and subtle observers as our guides.”Bookforum

Journalists Hodge and Weinberger hit the open road to explore the secretive world of nuclear weaponry. Weaving together travel writing with world-changing events, "A Nuclear Family Vacation" unearths unknown--and often quite entertaining--stories about the nuclear world.
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About the Author

Sharon Weinberger is a contributing writer for Wireds national security blog, Danger Room. She was previously editor in chief of McGraw-Hills Defense Technology International and a writer for Aviation Week & Space Technology, a leading aerospace and defense magazine. She is the author of the recently published Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagons Scientific Underworld, and writes frequently on national security and science for the Washington Post Magazine, Slate, and Discover.

Nathan Hodge is a Washington, D.C.-based writer for Janes Defence Weekly. A frequent contributor to Slate, he has reported extensively from Afghanistan, Iraq, and the former Soviet Union. His work has appeared in the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and Details, among many other newspapers and magazines.

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