(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima dramatically recounts the three weeks between the first test of the atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, and the dropping of the five ton “Little Boy” on Hiroshima on August 6th, killing nearly 100,000 people and decimating the city. Author Stephen Walker switches between New Mexico, Hiroshima, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and Potsdam as events move inexorably toward this history changing event.

Rather than focusing upon the perspective of major figures like Robert Oppenheimer and Harry Truman, whose stories have been told many times, Walker's mesmerizing narrative instead examines points of view gleaned from interviews of the crew of the Enola Gay, the scientists who built the bomb, and the people who survived it. These lesser known, although nonetheless vital, players in the drama include the technician who “babysat” the bomb high atop a tower during the stormy eve of the first test, the crew member who armed the bomb in the skies over Hiroshima, and the scientist who carried the core of the bomb in a suitcase on the backseat of his car.

Most moving, however, are the memories of Hiroshima's survivors: the young soldier who found the remains of his wife and baby snuggled together, the student who wandered the decimated city searching for his lost love, and the barber who roamed the streets with his camera, too stunned to take pictures. These poignant portraits of the bomb's victims, combined with those of its creators and purveyors, combine to create a compelling portrait of the complex, momentous event that ushered in the atomic age.