Fusion research is back in the news again, due to multiple factors. I've been long interested in this topic and have seen this book mentioned in several places since it came out in 2019. Now that I finally got it and read it, I'm really happy I did. I think it's likely the best book I've read this year, and one of the best works of non-fiction in recent memory.

What makes the book so great is the combination of scientific, yet undestandable writing. The authors achieved a level of clarity and organization of thought that's enviable, particulary for describing a topic of immense essential complexity like nuclear fusion. It really is very, very well done; the kind of presentation of a technical topic that I can only strive to achieve in my own humble writings.

The book doesn't shy away from equations, but I don't think anything beyond late high-school math and physics is required for decent understanding. The authors start from the basics, carefully laying down the foundation, but manage to stave off boredom by focusing on the big picture at the same time. "Simple" ideas for a fusion device are presented; then, issues with those designs are discussed and solutions are proposed. After repeating this process several times, the book provides a pretty decent description of state-of-the-art devices, including a detailed overview of what ITER is going to be. All along, the book is written in such a way that obviates almost all "but why" and "what if" questions, by laying out multiple alternatives for potential challenges and carefully discussing them in succession.

While it focuses mostly on nuclear fusion for electricity power plants, the book has a few other interesting chapters. For example, the second chapter is a whirlwind tool of all the potential energy generating methods at humanity's disposal. Everything is clearly quantified, with nice back-of-the-envelope calculations. Have you ever wondered just how much total windpower there is... on Earth? Or, could we satisfy all our needs by harvesting the energy from waves, or geothermal energy? The book answers all these questions, and many more. I learned so much just from this chapter, it alone is worth the cost of the book! Another fascinating chapter talks about space-travel propulsion and how fusion could be important there as well.

Having read this book (twice in succession, which is something I rarely do, but it's simply this good) I feel much better equipped to understand the news occasionally published about fusion, including all the press releases from fusion start-ups. And I've acquired a sobering appreciation for the huge complexity of the problem fusion scientists and engineers are trying to solve. If you're interested in science, and in energy science in particular, this book is really amazing and highly recommended.