I learned a great deal but it was far from an exciting read. It reads in a "just the facts" manner. One would think that a book on spies would have more intrigue.
This is how we felt. I purchased this right before a long tedious road trip. Both my husband and I listened for hours. It was engaging, entertaining and educational. Just to know that this was all going on when no one bothered to report on it or blab all over the media. This is where the real story is - after the fact when the job is done. I have always said it is better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission - Charlie Wilson is one of these guys with the same rule!
I don't know. Maybe these things won't bother other people, but it seemed as if there were a lot of either typos in the text or misreadings by the reader. Describing the "hollowed halls" of Yale, talking about "flaunting the rules," telling of an antique car so old it had more than "three thousand miles on it." And so on and on and on. These things just jolted me every time I heard them. The ms should have been proof-read, or the reader needs to be more careful. I've "read" probably a thousand books on tape, cd, and as downloads, and I've never encountered anything like this. Great story, tho.
What Charlie Wilson, the CIA and various others did was pretty extraordinary, but the telling is anything but. Mr. Crile’s choice to delve into the background of every character as a way of explaining the motivation for playing a part in the Afghan resistance is distracting. I also found it confusing the way Mr. Crile, attempting to tell the story chronologically, also bounces back and forth in time, again attempting to unveil all the significance of each event, choice, meeting, etc. Rather than rewind constantly to figure out where I was in time and where the timeline had diverged, I decided to let go of the details and try to keep track of the bigger picture. Mr. Crile fails in one other important point - at the end of the second section (of three) I found it difficult to find a compelling reason to keep listening. We already know the ending, but unlike Mr. Eichenwald’s excellent "Conspiracy of Fools," there is no suspense or intrigue here. There are colorful characters who overcome many obstacles; there are colorful stories with humorous or interesting outcomes; but those ingredients don’t complete the recipe of a good story.
Read about how the CIA and congress really works.
I thought the story started out very well, but having a hard staying focused on the enormous amount of detail being presented in the second half of the book.
Is this really the last battle of the cold war or are we in it now? I wonder what government is behind killing Americans. I'll be willing to bet, that every dollar they spend, costs the US at least $100.
Really makes you wonder.....
I'm a professor at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. I love reading (and listening) to pieces about military history.
The story itself is fascinating, and I learned a lot. The reader is exceptionally good with voices as well, traversing a Texas twang to British-inflected Pakistani with aplomb. But the tale is marred with lazy, cliche-ridden writing.
First, the author's treatment of women in the book is borderline offensive. Women are routinely referred to by demeaning nicknames rather than their actual names. For example, the Baroness de Portanova is referred throughout as "Buckets", a high-school nickname/insult bestowed on her for her prodigious breasts in a corruption of buxom. No one used this name for her in adulthood, but the author insists on referring to her that way throughout the book. Other women fare no better, a Nordic beauty is referred to as Snowflake and a Ukrainian from Cleveland as Sweetums. The men, who probably have nicknames too, do not suffer from this treatment.
The author also suffers from a limited vocabulary in describing certain things. For instance, individuals who overcome some minor adversity to do their jobs correctly are referred to as "pros" more times than I can count. It's not that this is the wrong word, but its unvarying use turns it into a cliche. Likewise, individuals display "uncanny" ability quite regularly in the book. The Afghans are uncanny marksman, their ability to use the Stinger missile is uncanny, and so on. The CIA men are no less uncanny. Other words like "horrifying" receive similar treatment.
Another problem with the book is the connection of character with place. While there is little doubt that where one grows up affects one's character, but to the author, it drives nearly every action the person undertakes. For instance, Gust's childhood in Aliquippa, PA explains virtually every action he takes in the book, a fact we are constantly reminded of. Charlie Wilson's Texas background likewise informs his actions. It's too pat to explain all aspects of character by location.
The last problem with the book is redundancy. We are reminded of the same event, or treated to the same description over and over. Perhaps this is a conscious choice by the author, an attempt a Homeric epithets, but it gets annoying fast. Charlie Wilson is described as "a tall Texan", "a 6' 4" Texan", "the big Texan", and other combinations referring to his size and his Texas origins countless times, often using the exact same phrase. This literary technique, in the hands of the author, simply does not work.
The book would have been a lot better had the author, or a more zealous editor to keep the great story but fix the delivery.
As one reads this book the line between fiction and reality gradually fades and eventually becomes invisible. It is always the individual in history who steps forward to save us from ourselves and the bureaucracy that is ever present and ever willing to profit from our collective self destructive isolationism and tolerance of liberal fascism. as we look forward to the coming election let us pray for another FDR or Charlie Wilson as the threat of Islamic extremism becomes increasingly unavoidable. I, for one, am finding hope in short supply as I contemplate a nation under the disingenuous influence of Mr. Obama.