In This Review

Avoiding Armageddon
Avoiding Armageddon
By Martin Schram
Basic Books, 2003, 256 pp.

The advantage of this book is that it conveys a sense of the grimmer aspects of the modern world from the bottom up. Based on a series for the Public Broadcasting System, it covers the dangers of nuclear war in the first part, chemical and biological weapons in the second, terrorism in the third, and some ideas for a better world in the fourth. Perhaps inevitably, the first three parts are more convincing than the fourth, which underscores the need to deal with issues such as aids and poverty but does not address how to resolve the political conflicts that are most likely to trigger the terrible possibilities described in earlier parts. The book's real value lies in its accounts of those caught up in efforts to produce noxious weapons and those trying to establish control over those weapons, as well as of victims of past tragedies from Chernobyl to the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway to the Kurds in Halabja, Iraq.