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The Shock of the Century

This book chronicles the dramatic events and developments leading up to and emanating from Sputnik's launch--a story that can only now be fully told with the recent release of previously classified documents. It offers a fascinating profile of the early American and Soviet space programs and a strikingly revised picture of the politics and personalities behind the facade of America's fledgling efforts to get into space.
The launch of Sputnik was one of the pivotal moments of the twentieth century. In telling its story, Paul Dickson sheds new light on our understanding of the last fifty years and offers an invaluable addition to the history of technology and the Space Age. -- Publisher


"Sputnik is a fascinating slice of useful social history...A serious book
that is breezily written, Sputnik reviews the scientific history, the Cold War mentality and a media-driven crisis over what headline writers called
'the Red Moon'."--USA Today

"Dickson re-creates the fire, furor, frustration, and flamboyance of the early Space Age. Sputnik's arrival set off a tidal wave in the affairs of men." -Vinton Cerf, coinventor of the Internet

"Dickson's book not only presents a thoughtful analysis of the impact Sputnik had on the dawning of the Space Age, but also serves as a valuable resource for understanding the historical context of the debates now taking place on issues such as National Missile Defense and the future of space." -Susan Eisenhower, President of the Eisenhower Institute

"Sputnik is an insightful look at the way Sputnik changed the world, especially the United States-boosting its education and research. Sputnik essentially awakened America and started its space era." -Sergei N. Khrushchev, author of Nikita Khrushchev: Creation of a Superpower and senior fellow at the Watson Institute

"Well written and informative, the book is a magnificent assessment of Cold War history as seen through the advancement of rocketry and space exploration. Dickson puts Sputnik into clear perspective-its impact on the course of international diplomacy, the growth of technology, and the hopes and fears of ordinary people in the U. S. and throughout the world." -Francis Gary Powers, Jr., founder of the Cold War Museum

"American arrogance, trumped by the Soviet surprise, led to an unparalleled time of national flagellation and self-doubt. Out of it all came the triumph of Apollo as American determination and spirit responded to the wakeup call of Sputnik. This book vividly reminded me of the powerful events that led me from an impressionable kid to an Apollo 9 astronaut."-Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut

"On the 44th anniversary of the launch of the first man-made satellite, Paul Dickson has written a wonderful history of this landmark event: Sputnik: The Shock of the Century." — Newsday, Jamie Talan

"Sputnik is a surprise. While the subject matter suggests it is basically for the scientifically minded, the book has an important message for the layman. Furthermore, author Paul Dickson, although formerly a reporter for Electronics magazine, writes in layman's language, and the parallels between the Sputnik shock of more than 40 years ago and the terrorists' shock of 2001 are astonishing. "Dickson's account of all the events in the space raccoons both accurate and exciting. As he puts it near the end of the book, Sputnik "forever altered America's cultural and political landscape." That it did. Whether it prepared America for the shock of terrorism is another question." — Richmond Times-Dispatch, Robert A. Lincoln

"Most of this well-researched book takes the reader down memory lane, but Dickson tells so much more than any of us knew about it at the time. You can tell the author is a journalist. And a good one. He moves the historic-scientific story along at a fast clip, slipping in hundreds of details, sources and personal experiences as he goes." — The Daily Oklahoman, Reba Neighbors COLA's

"Sputnik: The Shock of the Century, a book suddenly made timely by the shock of this new century." — Seattle Post-Intelligencer, John Marshall

"In these first months of responding to the terrorism of Sept. 11, books like this one are particularly valuable, helping us place the present event in the context of history and to make decisions that future historians will regard as necessary, courageous, and resulting in an enduring positive impact on civilization." — The Dallas Morning News, Fred Bortz

"Paul Dickson's fascinating Sputnik ...makes the space race come alive in layman's language, and he shows how the shock of the Russians being first at something galvanized this country in all sorts of far-reaching ways." — Booklist, Bill Ott

"Paul Dickson skillfully puts the story of Sputnik and its aftermath into this new perspective in his informative and readable book." — The Christian Science Monitor, Robert C. Cowen

"After that day nothing can be the same again. With the US's self-confidence shaken after years of prosperity, and the President under fire for initial inactivity, it feels like a new Pearl Harbor. The dormant special relationship between the US and Britain is reawakened. An inward-looking nation becomes painfully aware of a hostile outside world. Some call for an immediate military response. Others seek scapegoats. But this isn't 11 September 2001; it's 4 October 1957.
"Unlike the recent attack on America, no one died when Sputnik was launched. But this superb book on the repercussions of the first artificial satellite makes uncanny reading in the light of recent events. ... the best book on the political shockwaves following Sputnik." — The New Scientist

"Paul Dickson recalls a succession of moods that will feel familiar, post?September 11: enormous complacency, then disbelief, then abiding apprehension. Even though the 184 lb satellite killed no one, and even though the Soviet Union clearly insisted its purpose was peaceful, its advent sent many of the same shockwaves through western society that Osama bin Laden's suicide planes did last month."
— Financial Times, Amity Shlaes

"Sprinkled with photos and quotes, this book provides an easy, compelling read." — Astronomy, Carol Ryback

"Freelance writer Paul Dickson shows why Americans of the 1950''s were so freaked out. Relying on government records declassified only in the last half-decade, he has reconstructed not just the military stakes of the launch but also the Cold War society it so rudely roiled, giving a straightforward and snappy account of a crisis in American politics, science and self-esteem." — New York Observer, Christopher Caldwell

"The dust jacket of Paul Dickson's delightful book about the launch of the first Earth satellite shows a stunned, binocular swaddled man gaping at the night sky. The Soviet Sputnik was, as the book's subtitle says, "The Shock of the Century," with an impact 44 years ago something like that of Pearl Harbor. Sputnik shook American complacency and led to great changes.
"Relying on newly declassified Cold War documents and his storytelling skill, Dickson entertainingly illuminates the post Sputnik turmoil that led not just to flights to the moon and planets but also to altering vast swaths of American life, from education to computers to civil rights and feminism. He captures perfectly the frantic, even zany, flavor of the times and the dizzying social impact of the "Red Moon." Even the Internet, Dickson says, owes its genesis to the panic over Sputnik." — The Oregonian, Vince Kohler

"Although written before the recent assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Paul Dickson's Sputnik is a good reminder that a sense of global vulnerability has been with us for longer than we would like to think. Sputnik, after all, went at the peak of the Cold War. Six weeks before, the Soviets had test?fired the first intercontinental ballistic missile; three days after came the report of their first H?bomb test. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev proclaimed that his country would soon turn out nuclear missiles "like sausages." "In an otherwise straightforward and sometimes workmanlike book about America's rude entry into the Space Age, Dickson has a story to tell about the initial moment in the race for space as convoluted as any classic John Le Carre Cold War spy tale." — Tom Engelhardt, News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

"In Sputnik: The Shock of the Century, Paul Dickson, a veteran journalistic researcher fascinated with space and the Cold War, turns the clock back to the seeming tranquility of the 1950s. "Like the recent terrorist assaults on the East Coast, the Soviet Union's 1957 launching of Sputnik, the first manmade satellite sounded a wake up call for the United States.

"'There is a world of difference in the levels of violence, but tragically there are parallels,' Dickson said recently when asked to size up the Sputnik launching compared with the Sept. 11 terrorist assault and with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The threat posed by each of those events, he noted, forced America to respond to its vulnerabilities in ways that changed -- or will alter -- the country forever." — Houston Chronicle, Mark Carreau

"Washington writer Paul Dickson mined mountains of recently declassified documents. He used old press accounts and new interviews. From this mass of material, he's produced a riveting history of the space race." — Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinal, Elaine Viets

"Sputnik should climb far up the lists, and have a long ride." — The Baltimore Sun, James H. Bready