The story and the narrator.
Overall, the book is excellent. I waited until after reading (listening to) the book to read about the author as not try to project my ideas about his background onto his words, and take them for face value. The book covers some major milestones in the history of firearms, leading up to the beginning of the automatic rifle changing the way battles were fought and the struggles that world armed forces faced in initial design, implementation, and production of the weapons as well as how tactics changed before and after it's widespread use. Throughout the book the author comes back and forth to the AK, often used as juxtaposition for the topic of the chapter at hand. The AK is definitely the main topic of the book, and the middle and much of the end deal with the Soviet Union's history and policy on weapons, a brief biography of Kalashnikov, the initial design and production of the weapon, and how it was distributed or authorized for manufacture (or not) by other comblock countries. It makes mention of all of the well known factories like Tula, Izshmash, Radom, Circle 10 and others.
One section I found incredibly interesting was a brief section on how the US dropped the ball in it's failure to keep up with the rest of the world in weapons design and why they made the choices they did leading up to the mid 20th century. It also deals with the initial development, testing, and backroom deals which led to the military's adoption of what would be the M-16, and the disaster that followed its debut in Vietnam. The testing section blew me away with some of the questionable and outright horrific details of the US military's "testing" of the AR-15, and I honestly can't help but hate the thing more now than I did prior to reading the book.
After finishing the book I felt the author was very knowledgeable and well versed in military tactics and policies, but felt by some of his passages that he was somewhat "anti-gun" in respect to private ownership, though in fair he explicitly says in the preface that the book would not take on the subject of the AK or semi or fully auto weapons and their place in US citizens' hands. He does however lament on what it seems he feels is an overall negative contribution the AK has made on the globe. He also seems to paint Kalashnikov himself in a very negative light, and portrays him as both a victim of the soviet union's ruthless policies, and a pathetic manufactured personality cult by the same people who sought to destroy his family. He does this all while making serious implications about the actual contributions General Kalashnikov made in his namesake firearm.
All in all, it's a great read (or listen), and actually has had me doing a little more digging and reading on various subjects of which my interest was triggered during and after reading. Recommended for AK guys who also like reading about history and politics both.
This is a far more fascinating story than what you may imagine from the premise or dust jack blurb alone. Enough tecnical information to inform a novice or satisfy the afficianado. Great anecdotes and stories for any history buff.
Anyone who likes the sound of a drill might like this book.
I really do not understand why this narrator has been allowed to narrate so many books. The sound of his voice makes me shudder. There are other books I want to get, but I won't because he is the narrator.
Hey all, I'm a 33 year old white dude from Las Vegas. I typically listen to thrillers, fantasy, and Sci-fi.
I thought this would be a much more technical book. I really appreciated how Chivers has incorporated history and consequences into the narrative.
This is my first book by Chivers. but he is on my list now.
Yes. I appreciated his voice, and he did his best to make Scholastic material as interesting as possible. Unfortunately, he still ended up sound a little professorial.
Extreme is not how I would describe my experience. Informative and entertaining, and from time to time I chuckled or empathized, but I never laughed out loud or cried.
I'm no expert on guns but this is a fascinating work on the history of an important technology, from the Civil War through post-Vietnam. It's full of delicious detail and a great listen.
Michael Prichard is up there as one of the dryest, clubfooted narrators of all time. How is it that he keeps getting gigs? I can't begin to number the number of excellent books he has ruined with his congested voice and passionless monotone delivery. Shudder-inducing. Many books, like this one, deserve much better. Michael Jayston, for example, could make the telephone book impossible to stop listening to.
Cannot compare; never read the ink on paper version.
The personal anecdotes about the principle characters were nice and made the book's value far greater than if it were just a history of mechanical devices. Far far overshadowing the basic histories of the fully automatic weapons was Chivers' stark revelation of the corruption around the creation and implementation of the M-16 rifle and the fact that so many men died or suffered catastrophic life-changing injuries and PTSD because of the well-known defects that were buried under marketing hype and self-protective lies by manufacturers and military officers, alike. Chivers' revealing that most M-16's in the early years of the Vietnam extravaganza were so flawed and so unreliable that many of our troops demanded to use the heavier/older M-14 or they actually picked-up the fearsome weapon of the enemy (the AK-47.) OUR own troops were so terrified of their own weapons' flaws that they ended-up using the enemy's own weapons because they wouldn't jam and make them sitting ducks in firefights. If more people knew about this travesty and that so many of our young men died because of business decisions, many things about the way today's "wars" are conducted would be scrutinized and made subject to accountability than we see now.
His pace and use of foreign accents made his reading amplify the mere words the author wrote.
"Genius So Efficiently Applied to Causing Tragedy"
The author did excellent work in crafting a book that stands alone as a documentary to the development of weapons which have changed our world...for the worse, unfortunately. Yet, we need to know. Also I love the quote; "Traditions and bad ideas die more slowly than do men" because it is so true and so evident almost everywhere one looks.
can a gun possibly have a personality ?
can you write the biography of a weapon ?
it is a paradoxical and at times counterintuitive task
the story constantly moves between two worlds
the brass VERSUS the grunts
the AK 47 VERSUS the M 16
the politicians VERSUS the warriors
the soviets VERSUS the americans
political nation states VERSUS insurgent splinter groups
c.j. chivers life has given him the tools to see both sides
cornell / columbia / n.y. times pulitzer prize winner
military family / binghampton ny / marine officer x 7 years
conventional media paint a false technical view of war
laser guided missiles / supersonic jets / nuclear bombs
remote computer controlled drones / images on a screen
the truth is messier and meaner and more brutal
jungles and deserts / illiterate 110 lb. boy soldiers
civilian targets / third world tribal street fights
chivers first tells the story of the soviet AK 47
it began life in the hard lessons of the nazi invasion of russia
its' features are all borrowed from what worked in other guns
this is then contrasted with the american M 16
born of defense contractor greed and political ineptitude
it's "field tested" by G.I.s for the first four years of vietnam
chivers lays out a hard story full of hard truths
plenty of greed / ignorance / fear / betrayal / bravery
it adds up to a flinty reminder of how the world really is
63 years old-retired-hate winters-like growing potatoes-ride a Harley-built a couple of electric bicycles-vietnam vet-like audible
Well written and insightful. I don't believe the AK 47 was souly the work of the Russion Sargent who's name it bears, but the book is good reading anyway. By 1943 the German army had developed and were using a weapon that bears a suspicious (and down right striking resemblence) to the AK. I have fired this gun and it is everything advertised-simple-reliable-cheap to produce-readily available-and a killing machine.