“Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.”

– George Stephanopolous
ABC News
January 1, 2005
October 2023 Book of Note
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October 2023

Unparalleled Catastrophe: Life and Death in the Third Nuclear Age
By Rhys Crilley
Manchester University Press
September 2023

In this book, Rhys Crilley chronicles and critically analyzes how and why “the world is racing towards unparalleled catastrophe.”

He opens with an overview of the history and characteristics of two distinctive eras of nuclear norms and cultures: the emergence and use of nuclear weapons and the normalization of nonuse of nuclear weapons. The book argues that Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States ushered in a “third nuclear age,” one characterized by the erosion of norms against nuclear use, an increase in global nuclear stockpiles, the emergence of new technologies and several other complexities.

The author makes the case for a critical approach to the study and understanding of nuclear weapons by drawing together a range of interdisciplinary scholarship. He argues that the current nuclear age is “shaped by our lived experience of nuclear culture” and thus must be studied as such. Throughout the book, he analyzes his personal memoirs and other unique sources such as pop songs, tv shows, movies and social media posts in addition to official documents, statements, and news. The book depicts the intersection of nuclear weapons and societal problems such as militarism, racism, sexism, and colonialism. It also studies nuclear weapons in relation to climate change, global pandemics and the future of democracy. The author portrays the very existence of nuclear weapons and “nuclear culture” as a civilization-ending challenge and suggests what can be done to avoid catastrophe. —CHRIS ROSTAMPOUR