Mushroom Cloud

Book I of the First Strike Series

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
380 Pages
Reviewed on 07/27/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Mushroom Cloud is a work of fiction in the historical and military intrigue subgenres. Penned by author Thomas Yeggy, it forms the first novel of the thrilling First Strike Series. It is best suited to mature teen and adult readers owing to some references to wartime violence, explicit language, and adult content. Kicking off this intelligent and exciting series with a bang, we find ourselves amidst the Cold War and the development of devastating technologies that could change the face of the planet as we know it. Dr. Caleb Young, the protagonist, is a highly educated and sought-after mind in the field of physics, and his harsh learning experience during wartime is documented alongside real events.

Author Thomas Yeggy offers much for fans of historical and military fiction to sink their teeth into in this highly engrossing opening to a promising new series. One of the most surprising features for me was how accessible and educational the content is because you needn’t know very much at all about the Cold War or any kind of physics or weapons development to dive right in and enjoy the story. I certainly learned a lot, and this was cleverly woven into the dialogue and plot-relevant scenes, never overwhelming the reader with exposition or prose. Caleb was also a highly relatable and admirable protagonist, and it was interesting to see him grow emotionally as well as over the course of his career. Overall, I would certainly recommend Mushroom Cloud for fans of historical fiction and interpersonal drama, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for First Strike.

Asher Syed

Thomas Yeggy goes for a full and complete crisis immersion in the methodical science and political book Mushroom Cloud. Doctor Caleb Young grew up among intellectuals which carried into his adult professional life. He graduated from Princeton University where Professor Einstein taught and he became a standout in physics and philosophy that parleyed into work with US intelligence and the executive branch. The book's title is a nod to the iconic mushroom-shaped smoke trail that appears when a nuclear fireball is compressed back down in the atmosphere. This is relevant in a book where the President of the United States is Harry Truman, who dropped the only atomic bombs used against a country in world history, and where meetings on strategy will have pointed statements like the US “...bombing seventy Soviet cities with a total of 133 atomic bombs, eight of which would be dropped on Moscow.” Caleb gets pulled in a lot of different directions with conferences on nuclear physics and the infamous lost super plane of the Cold War, the B-36.

Mushroom Cloud by Thomas Yeggy takes time to get into and I could not call it a quick page-turner but it is exhaustively researched. Yeggy is intentional in Mushroom Cloud's pacing so as not to gloss over small but important facts and details. I learned a lot more than I have read in any other novel like this, such as how greatly the Soviet military outsized the United States, the formation of NATO, and that creating an aircraft to carry a nuclear bomb is as complicated as creating the bomb itself. Two things I very much liked about what Yeggy puts into the book are references that prove the parts written into the story are true and verifiable, and that Yeggy does not give only the US perspective of what transpired. Conversations between characters like Malenkov and Bulganin, part of Stalin's inner circle, discuss the situations and I saw another parallel between the book's title and content: both sides showed that the exceptionalism demonstrated to the public was routinely a mushroom cloud smokescreen for genuine uncertainty. Intelligently written and immersive. Very highly recommended.

Jamie Michele

Mushroom Cloud by Thomas Yeggy is a political military fiction novel and the first book in the author's First Strike Series. The novel is set primarily in the mid-twentieth century, but the timeline does reach back earlier to fill in the backstory of the book's main character and protagonist, Caleb Young, and his years as a Princeton student under the tutelage of Dr. Albert Einstein, and several other prominent moments with other characters both real and imagined. Caleb is eventually hired by the United States State Department which spares him from the draft and, like his father before him, he becomes an intrinsic piece in the chess game of American politics and global warfare. Caleb's brilliance as a physicist fast-tracks his career through agencies and places him in the top tier of government machinations. In this capacity, he ultimately becomes central to nuclear posturing in all its forms, including Operation Dropshot, a pre-emptive first-strike plan aimed at the Soviets that involved 300 nuclear weapons.

“When your opponent is down, son, don’t help him up. Step on his neck.” Mushroom Cloud by Thomas Yeggy is the most delicious form of literary red meat for those who cannot get enough serious fiction to read in the military, science, and history genres. Yeggy clearly knows a great deal about the politics that gave rise to a period when an arms race was ratcheting up faster than most agencies knew what to do with, and about multiple branches of physics. The writing style leans heavily on dialogue that transitions between several point of view characters, including, but definitely not limited to, Dr. Albert Einstein, President Truman, and even Stalin. Most of the technical aspects are written as dialogue and readers who have a low tolerance for the disposal of swaths of information in monologue format will be weeded out almost immediately. Yeggy weaves an interesting fly-on-the-wall sequence to the arc of the novel and Caleb does become a well-developed character, and a welcome one at that, against the backdrop of a textbook account of American history.

Grant Leishman

Mushroom Cloud: Book I of the First Strike Series by Thomas Yeggy is a fascinating and deep-dive inside the minds and motivations of the leading players in the post-World War II political world, especially as between the two main Cold War opponents, the United States and the USSR. The action revolves around physicist Dr. Caleb Young, the Chief Science Officer of the CIA. Caleb was a true child prodigy, the home-schooled son of two Hungarian refugees; his father was a physicist, and his mother was a chemist. After achieving his doctorate at the tender age of just 18 and being a student and colleague of the great Albert Einstein, Caleb’s goal was to serve his country in whatever capacity he could. This he would do as a scientist in the CIA and its earlier iterations. He is hauled before the Department of Justice in 1964 for a deposition, after speaking publicly about the dangers of nuclear war and potential destruction. The true depth of Caleb’s involvement in the clandestine spy organ of the U.S. government and the bag of “dirty tricks” it utilized to fool the Soviets into believing that the U.S. could deliver a crippling nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, when, in fact, they couldn’t, began to become apparent.

Mushroom Cloud is a riveting read for someone who has a bent for history, especially that murky political period of post-World War II tensions. Author Thomas Yeggy reminds us that Dr. Caleb Young is a fictional character and yet the book has such a ring of authenticity and true history that it is easy to forget Young never existed and is probably a composite of several real historical figures. The depth of knowledge and research displayed in the writing is simply mind-blowing and the tension created by the many actual incidents covered is real and compelling. I truly have to commend the author for his ability to weave Dr. Young’s story into the real events of the time. I particularly appreciated that the author tried to include the perspectives of both parties to this “Cold War” in his narrative. It was fascinating to read the perceptions or indeed misperceptions that both sides had of each other’s capabilities at various points in the race to be the aggressor or the one able to successfully deliver a first strike of nuclear weapons should it ever be deemed necessary. I am excited that this is just Book I of the series and I eagerly anticipate reading more of this incredible tale of deception, smoke and mirrors, and backstabbing. This is a fantastic book and one I can highly recommend.

Pikasho Deka

Mushroom Cloud is the first installment of the First Strike Series by Thomas Yeggy, and covers the period between 1947 to 1953 during the advent of the Cold War. It showcases the burgeoning tensions between the United States of America and the Soviet Union that brought them close to an all-out nuclear war. It is narrated from the perspective of a character named Caleb Young, a Princeton-graduated prodigy who works for the mathematics division of the Manhattan Project. The events unfold as Caleb tells his story before a Justice Department deposition, revealing his top-secret assignments for multiple American administrations, including one where he worked for the CIA and maneuvered the Russians. Caleb also discloses the circumstances surrounding Kennedy's assassination, the use of Russia as a proxy during the Korean war, and finally, the conspiracy that led to the death of Stalin.

Historical aficionados and history buffs in general are in for a treat with Mushroom Cloud. Thomas Yeggy gives a well-researched and in-depth account of the earlier part of the Cold War, when America and the Soviet Union came too close to conflict multiple times, only to be thwarted by the actions of some unsung heroes who put their careers on the line to prevent nuclear Armageddon. Although a novel, Yeggy incorporates actual historical events and personalities into the narrative, which raises the stakes and makes the story all the more captivating. The characters feel real and believable, primarily because most of them are actual historical people. Overall, it gives you a fascinating glimpse into one of the most significant periods of the post-World War II era. Highly recommended.