As breathtaking today as when it was completed, Hoover Dam ranks among America's greatest achievements. The story of its conception, design, and construction is the story of the United States at a unique moment in history: when facing both a global economic crisis and the implacable elements of nature, we prevailed.
The United States after Hoover Dam was a different country from the one that began to build it, going from the glorification of individual effort to the value of shared enterprise and communal support. The dam became the physical embodiment of this change. A remote regional construction project was transformed from a Republican afterthought into a New Deal symbol of national pride. Hoover Dam went on to shape not only the American West but the American century.
Michael Hiltzik populates the epic tale of the dam's construction with larger-than-life characters, such as Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, William Mulholland, and the dam's egomaniacal architect, Frank Crowe. Shedding real light on a one-of-a-kind moment in 20th-century American history, Hiltzik combines exhaustive research, trenchant observation, and a gift for unforgettable storytelling in a book that is bound to become a classic in its genre.
"Colossus" is Michael Hiltzik's contribution to the public works literature including - for example - David McCullough's "The Great Bridge" and "The Path Between the Seas" along with "Golden Gate" by Kevin Star. In this volume Hiltzik details the history of the taming of the Colorado River during the Western Expansion to the building of the Hoover Dam. The political horse trading, engineering, labor problems, and more other surprises than can be listed here are presented. The book offers an amazing window onto the sacrifices made by those who physically built the dam with their sweat, muscle, and sometimes their lives. Desperate men in desperate economic times. This book focuses on the political economic issues to the exclusion of engineering details. So readers expecting another "The Path Between the Seas" might be a little disappointed. This is more a political biography than an engineering biography of the dam. Otherwise, the prose keeps the listener's attention and the reading of Norman Dietz is excellent.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Mr. Hiltzik could have used a really aggressive editor on this one. I love a good backstory, but I have a limit when it comes to running down so many rabbit trails. Also, Norman Dietz's narration is--and I hate to be harsh, but this is the truth--somewhat grandfatherly sounding. A subject matter this interesting should have made for a real "page-turner." As it is, I literally have to listen in short bursts to keep from becoming too frustrated.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful
I had this in my wish list for almost a year before downloading it, I should have done it sooner. This was a detailed account of not only the building of the dam but of the reasons for it. A history of the imperial valley of California starts the book out and then the appropriation of money that took years in Congress. the story also talks about president Hover, who had little to do with the dams creation but whose name was put on it. Stories of how Hover rewrote the way events transpired in his memoirs to make himself look better was a little surprising.
The story of the construction was well don and you could picture the men at work and almost feel the heat. There is even a story of a dog who became the dams mascot that was very touching.
This was a vary detailed book and I think you need a real interest in the subject to enjoy it fully.
It was a good listen, the narration was good and fit the subject. The next time I visit the dam I shall listen to this again.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed every word of this book. Whether you are interested in the Hoover Dam, dams, engineering, landscapes, archeology, the West, architecture, politics, history, concrete, water rights, art, labor, photography, business, contracting, land management, pioneering, rags to riches stories, etc., there is something in this book for you. The extensive research is tied together into a great story that is riveting throughout. The internet is full of photographs of the Hoover Dam construction to see while you are listening.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
After visiting the dam last year, I looked forward to learning more. While I did learn more, I didn't really enjoy this book. If you haven't already read it, check out "The Great Bridge" instead.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
I feel that so many Americans are aware of the Hoover Dam from history books to documentaries. Hiltzik starts the book out with the history of how men tried to tame the Colorado River for farming throughout the Imperial Valley back in the 1800's.
This background is woven into the framework of how Hoover Dam came to be. The story delves into the details of the politics, contractors, the men who built it along with their living accommodations and dangerous working conditions.
I have visited Hoover Dam twice in my life. I was amazed by what I saw as I was able to take the tour both times. however, I will never think about this most incredible achievement of how man tamed such a wild river again. I feel the author provides a well balanced story, which did not take me long to get through because I was really intregued by the story.
I am fond of immersion reading so I usually read the hard copy while listening when I can. one curious note. the reader of the audio book has a very fine voice and does a great job, however he must have been either reading a slightly different version or decided to change some of the sentence structures. I just wanted to note that they are not identical. I haven't encountered that before, except for seeing that the printed copy was an older or newer version of the audio book. there was no mention of multiple editions in the copyright area in the front of the book.
Any additional comments?
Having lived several decades in Southern California and in and around Arizona, as well as being familiar with Nevada, I loved listening to this book. I can directly relate to many of the locations described. I continue to marvel at the tenacity of engineers like Frank Crowe. Of course in today's world many of the concepts and rules of engagement in the construction business employed at the Hoover dam site would never have been thought of let alone implemented. The construction of Boulder city, was a magnanimous effort within itself, and then have you get all those people to and from the work site everyday that was a huge effort. The cement plants that were built to support the concrete requirements which are long since gone. The railroad was built to bring equipment and pipe to the site, now long since gone. How do you stop the Colorado River so we can build the dam? The engineers of the Six Companies Corporation, made it look easy, simply carve out diversion tunnels in solid rock and let the River flow in a different direction! I recently met a young civil engineering graduate and ask him if he had ever heard of the Hoover dam, to my surprise he told me that he did study that in engineering school briefly it was part of the curriculum. The PBS channel with the American Experience also has a great video of this project.
Whenever I visit Las Vegas, I almost always take a detour to visit the Hoover Dam. It's something that you have to see for yourself. After reading The Great Bridge by David McCullough, I was seeking out other great massive infrastructures such as the Hoover Dam.
Colossus by Michael Hiltzik was disappointing and I had a rough time at finishing the book. Maybe I've been reading too much from David McCullough, but Michael Hiltzik fails at explaining the actual building of the dam. Instead, 90% of the book is about politics and very little engineering of dam building.
I would had learned more at reading the encyclopedia than from the information of this book. Do yourself a favor, go visit the Hoover Dam and take the tour because there is not enough dam building in Colossus.
I wanted to know more about how the concrete cures, blowing up the side of the mountain and so on, but instead I heard about politics . I can't remembered if the author explained the height and the width on the Hoover Dam.
If you are going to write national monuments, write on the subject. Don't tell me the side stories that doesn't relate. If you had a grandfather that helped built the Hoover Dam, I highly doubt that he will tell his grandchildren what went on behind closed doors.
Using the story of the Hoover Dam as a back drop this book chronicles the early 20th century and places a number of events leading up to and after construction in perspective.
Hiltzik followed this book with a second volume titled "The New Deal" ... the two books fit together perfectly.
Note: The Owyhee Dam & Reservoir is located west of Boise, Idaho but over the Oregon state-line in Eastern Oregon and not in Idaho. The text mistakenly places this project in Idaho.
I loved this book. It's a bit long winded with lots of political information on how it came about but a fascinating account of the Hoover Dam. If you've seen the dam in person you owe it to yourself to understand the effort made in making it happen and the building process. A true feat of engineering of the early 20th century.