Olson writes lucidly, making even the most recondite details of the science involved clear to a nonscientist. And he’s eloquent in his chronicling of the lives affected — and sometimes destroyed — by the invention and use of the world’s most deadly weapon ... [a] deft, informative, sometimes terrifying book.
Olson buttresses his argument for Hanford’s significance with historic facts such as these, but also with personal anecdotes and present-day insights ... For readers coming fresh to the history, or diving more deeply into it for the first time, Olson provides enough back story of the key players to give a flavor of the disparate — and sometimes clashing — personalities that made the project tick. And though the book is perhaps not for the scientifically faint-of-heart, Olson is a crisp writer who brings clarity to complex subject matter ... Though the author could have provided the story greater intimacy by describing more of his own experience growing up in the area, the book still offers the personal insights of individuals whose lives were impacted, for good or ill, by the Hanford site. Olson includes not just those on the receiving end of accolades and Nobel Prizes, but individuals from more anonymous walks of life, to provide a relatable and often heartbreaking layer to the narrative ... By training his lens on Hanford, Olson offers the biography of a town ... Before moving forward and shaping our nuclear future, we must first seek to understand its past, to shine light into all of its dark corners. Olson scapegoats no one, but proffers uncomfortable truths and poses challenging — if open-ended — questions ... Though [Olson] does not always offer answers to the questions he poses, he does offer hope based on his faith in human brilliance, tenacity and ingenuity to meet our challenges — the kind of traits and talents that made the Manhattan Project possible in the first place.
In accessible prose, [Olson] explores all the scientific complexities, offering a vivid picture of the dawning nuclear age ... Olson considers important questions, from whether the horrific bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were needed to end the war, to the unforeseen problem of the possible adverse health effects of nuclear waste left at the Hanford site ... This well-researched book can be a bit heavy on science at times for general readers, but it is a solid, valuable work on a critical aspect of America’s wartime quest for an atomic bomb.