Overview (Spoilers Abound):
NPR yet again recommends an intriguing read in Fallout, which highlights the United States’ involvement in attempting to cover up the true damage of the atom bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This story is centered around the American reporter, John Hersey who exposed this cover up and the great lengths he and other journalists went through to get this story out to the wider public. Blume set the stage early in this read regarding the state of the War both abroad and at home, as well as the relationship the media had with the military during this time of conflict. Relying heavily on polls covering a variety of topics throughout Fallout, the reader was able gauge the shifting moods and opinions of the American public pre and post war as new information came to light. While I wasn’t surprised by the cover up, the story that Hersey unveils was horrifying in both the misinformation and the human toll in the bombed areas. The accounts from the Japanese civilians during and after the bombing, specifically with what they witnessed and what they had to do to survive the aftermath was truly terrifying, especially when visualizing this happening to one’s hometown.
On a side note, I love when my nonfiction reads start fitting neatly into venn diagrams and Fallout in particular had many overlapping subtopics with another recent book that I’ve been raving about, How to Hide an Empire. By these books cover similar time periods and subjects from different perspectives of their author’s focus, ultimately helping my knowledge-base expand especially as more variables are in play.
While I was engaged throughout much of Fallout, the ending lacked much of the suspense that Blume could have naturally infused into the story as the real life narrative plays out much like a rollercoaster. Not only did Hersey and his editors created a fake edition of The New Yorker to hide the massive story, but the military also changed their policies regarding any material regarding the bomb right before publication, potentially making the whole story classified. It was only with the military’s approval did the story see the light of day, and that was in no way a guarantee to happen. While Blume covered all of these hurdles, they read more like a report instead of a harrowing, edge of your seat obstacle. This is a minor complaint for nonfiction, especially when a read like Fallout coveys a plethora of facts and is engaging throughout the majority, it just had a bit of a plodding ending. Overall, Fallout provides novel insights into the story behind the aftermath of the atom bomb and how one reporter exposed a government coverup regarding radiation and hidden facts that we now take for granted.