The Dead Hand

  • by David E. Hoffman
  • Narrated by Bob Walter
  • 9 hrs and 34 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This riveting narrative history of the end of the arms race sheds new light on the frightening last chapters of the Cold War and the legacy of the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that remain a threat today.During the Cold War, world superpowers amassed nuclear arsenals containing the explosive power of one million Hiroshimas. The Soviet Union secretly plotted to create the "Dead Hand", a system designed to launch an automatic retaliatory nuclear strike on the United States, and developed a fearsome biological warfare machine. President Ronald Reagan, hoping to awe the Soviets into submission, pushed hard for the creation of space-based missile defenses.In the first full account of how the arms race finally ended, The Dead Hand provides an unprecedented look at the inner motives and secret decisions of each side. Drawing on top-secret documents from deep inside the Kremlin, memoirs, and interviews in both Russia and the United States, David Hoffman introduces the scientists, soldiers, diplomats, and spies who saw the world sliding toward disaster and tells the gripping story of how Reagan, Gorbachev, and many others struggled to bring the madness to an end. When the Soviet Union dissolved, the danger continued, and the United States began a race against time to keep nuclear and biological weapons out of the hands of terrorists and and rogue states.

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What the Critics Say

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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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- Amazon Customer

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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- Case

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-22-2009
  • Publisher: Random House Audio