Almighty: Courage, Resistance & Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age

Dan Zak

Obama’s recent visit to Hiroshima pushed the threat of nuclear war back onto the public mind, even if only lasting for a week. But reports of North Korea’s development of nuclear capability continues to raise concern. Even our own presidential election could bear on the use of nuclear arms.

Given these events, it might be wise to learn from history. As one not prone to read history, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed (Is that the right word?) Almighty. The book gives an easy-to-read history lesson on the Manhattan Project, while issuing a stern warning about the misuse of nuclear power. But it does so by combining the suspense of a thriller, with the facts of well-researched history.

The opening chapter feels like a scene from a science-fiction movie, as a diverse band of rebels plot the sabotage of a nuclear research facility. As the book unfolds three narrative lines interweave, educating the reader while driving the “plot” forward. As one reviewer points out, almost all the activists are religiously motivated. Religion should certainly motivate concern for the deadliest use of force in history. If you believe that God created humanity and somehow placed his divine stamp on us, nuclear threat is perhaps the greatest social justice issue possible. After all, the impact of a nuclear bomb can eradicate more people that homelessness, sex trafficking, and poverty combined. Of course, disarmament is a not just a religious concern; it is a human concern. Concerned secular citizens seek to subvert nuclear peril through the power of policy-making.

Despite your religious or non-religious status, the possibility of an extinction level event should raise deep philosophical and religious questions. This book forced me to think about my response to this issue. What can I do to help prevent such an event? It also forced me to ponder existential questions: Am I using my life the best way possible? Would I change anything if I knew a nuclear bomb was going to go off in my lifetime?

Almighty reads like a novel but packs the punch of cultural criticism. It raises a warning and calls us to courageous action, an important book on an often forgotten issue.

Thanks to First to Read for an advance copy of this book.