Dry, Straightforward, Simple…and Jumpy
Like the history textbooks that Sheinkin used to write, Bomb is written with language that's so simple it's on the verge of boring, without many of the flowery details that you would find in a typical novel. However, this is a blessing in disguise, because with over one hundred and twenty characters to keep track of—many of them spies, or scientists, or scientist-spies—if there were any superfluous details we'd have a really hard time keeping up.
As an example:
Early in 1942, a young Soviet physicist named Georgi Flerov sat in the library of a military base in southwestern Russia, flipping through a tall stack of physics journals from the United States. When the Germans invaded, Flerov had put his studies aside to serve in the Soviet air force. But he couldn't stop thinking about fission. So when he had a free moment, he snuck off to the library to read of the newest discoveries. (Enormoz.(7).1)
Isn't that pleasantly simple? Sheinkin could have included details, like which military base in southwestern Russia, or which studies Flerov had set aside, or which pant leg he puts on first thing in the morning—but he doesn't, enabling us to hone in on what matters most and make sure we don't forget it while meeting a near endless stream of characters.
An aspect of Sheinkin's style that makes it a bit difficult to keep everybody straight is that he jumps from Los Alamos to Russia, or Norway to Washington D.C., or plotline to plotline throughout any given chapter. Although at the moment we can't think of a better way to tell such a convoluted story, it can make it hard to remember who is on what side, and where we've heard which name before. (Hopefully our "Character" section will help you with this aspect.) Sheinkin does his best to present the story sequentially, so that things happen as they did over time, but sometimes the jumping from place to place can be a bit confusing. Hold onto your hats.