One becomes inured to the vagaries of Washington politics. Many, outside the Beltway, prefer not to have their noses rubbed in it. Sort of not wanting to see how sausages are made. The first half of this book is boring when it rubs one's nose in the minutia of political maneuvering and jockying for position and one-up-manship. Almost every sentence contains the words: "Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall." In the first part you are left with the impression that the only thing that came out of the President's tenure was the Berlin apeach. It appears there were various (numersous?) agencies, departments persons, ad nauseum.that either did not want those words in Reagan's spreech...or did...or maybe some variation; and the author provides not only the official reasons, for or against, but intuited reasons what or what not politicans thought or thought they thought, and so on. It sort of reminds me of a Mozart farce. The author feels the necessity of repeating the five words over and over while comparing the final speach's wording with every conceivable, discarded variation. It portrays, in dreary detail, why Washington is disfunctional.
The second part is worth the listen. (Note the uniform 3 star rating. I rate the first part zero (for boredom) and the second part 4 stars or maybe 4 1/2 stars.) The second part at least gives the President's tenure some perspective. And provides a thumb-nail sketch of what the idea behind those words meant and what they led to. One almost forgets the first part but is on the look-out for repititions sneaking in. On the negative side, I don't think the fact that the Reagans imported a bed from Spain to sleep in, or that Reagan fell off to sleep both times when visiting the Pope add any insight to the demise of the Soviet political and economic system.
In many ways I found the narritive disconcerting. I thought back to the days when "victory" was the logical end of war, e.g. Grant, Patton, Eisenhower. McCrystal's story belies his belief, while at West Point, that he would be a fighting soldier. He skirts over his junior, company and field commander experiences by listing the future soldiers he will again serve with. As his career moves ever upward he finds himself more enmeshed and ensnared by the wishes of his politcal overseers. It must be frustrating to see the "light toward military victory" as only a military man can see his or her duty to be reined in by political expediency and a hostile press.
McCrystal does not advocate doing away with civilian control but it is evident it impedes outcomes to the degree that military operations are never successfully concluded. The lesson I got from this book is that if you're a general, on down to the level of private, that you have continually to look over your shoulder. This is especially true when so many in political authority, including the Commander in Chief, are more concerned of how they will appear on the evening news cycle, when so many political leaders have never served a day in the military, and when they feel more accountable to domestic interest groups then to the men and women who have to fight and die for their country.
I was disappointed in his telling of the Rolling Stone article. It's passed over in a paragraph with the appropriate mea culpas.The other disappointment is McCrystal continually resorts to defining a good military leader's qualities and concludes that his description fits him. I have no doubt that he is a well qualified military leader but this device seems to be self-serving.
I rarely read fiction and after reading this book it may be years before I pick up another contemporary work of fiction. The plot, action, dialogue and characters are ridiculous. It is evident the author has never held, let alone shot, a gun. Nor, I would venture, been out of an urban environment.
We are to beleive the "hero" has been shot three times in the stomach and within a few days he is on a plane to England (having a meal and drinks) and the next day on the way to Serbia (to save the world). In all (I think) the transformed "super-hero" is shot 4 times (once in the head), hit with the butt of a rifle and almost burned alive and he just pops right up to fight the demons against the West. In the meantime he travels all over Europe and the U.S.
The author seeks to bring ligitamacy to this book by relating street names and directions, which I might add, appears to be the only quasi research he may have done for this novel. On this subject, we are to believe the "hero" (a U.K. citizen), or his CIA. SEAL. Delta team, are intimately familiar with every street and street direction in every European and American city they set down in. The book is a writen version of a video game (I did not say "literary" version; that would give too much credit to the author).
I can't imagine that someone would even concoct such a miasma of idiodicy and beleive that a listener would fall for it. I listened to the book on a long vacation trip drive and it kept me awake and laughing picking out the inconsistencies, unbelievable dialogue, action and pure poppycock. We are to beleive, after being beaten and hit in the head with a rifle, not to mention having recently been shot three times in the stomach, once in the shoulder (a few days before) and once in the head, and I might add, been in freezing water where he swam over 100 meters underwater, that the hero can stand erect and fire a handgun at a man 150 meters away and hit him in the head. I know people that can't do that with a scoped rifle while lying prone on a blanket. Then there is the NYC adventure. We are told he just spent $1,500 for new clothes (Hugo Boss, I beleive) and then is afraid he might be "out of place" at an evening childrens' concert at Lincoln Center. The concert is being attended by the wives of leaders of nearly every major country and we are to beleive that the combined, NYPD, FBI, Secret Service, etc. has not checked the basement for bombs and a bomber or posted guards at service doors.
Then our (now) uber hero talks his false love (she did him dirty) out of setting off the bombs by saying she is "naive". That's just before he shoots the love of his life (same woman), the woman who will transform him into a peace-loving citizen...probably on the British dole...in the head.
Lastly, he walks around with a large automatic pistol, with an attached silencer in his jacket, pants or suit pocket. Obviously, the author never measured how long (about 15" to 18") and how heavy this armament would be: about 3+ lbs. And, of course, no one is the wiser or notices that his pocket is sagging or his pants are about to fall down.
The reader is oficious and makes the "hero" sound like an unsympathetic prig.
If you want to read a comedy, in the guise of a "serious" novel, then this is for you. Frankly, I wouldn't waste my time, money or credits.
This is NOT an adventure/mystery/spy novel...Period!. It's an elaborate ploy to display the author's knowledge and personal opinions about art history. I found the action hard to believe. We are supposed to believe that Langdon, in the midst of being shot at, pursued and blodgeoned by the bad guys, has the time to give an in-depth explanation of the historical places he is chased through. So (as an example), while chasing the quasi-heroine through a spice market the action is stopped so we can be regaled at length with its ancient beginings. After this lengthy aside, we follow Langdon in his chase. Every immediate action is paused while a detailed description is provided of the arts' provanence. The plot, which is absurd, can be distilled into two paragraphs. If it were, however, no one would bother reading this book. The characters are cardboard cutouts. One would think that the only good sex Langdon may have had was with some ancient fresco. He certainly does not know how to relate to people. He turns out to be gulible and the reader (listener) is supposed to suspend judgment. I give it a pass as a waste of time.
If you wanted to know every bit if minute of an event this is your book. Obviously, the telegram was important in bringing the U.S. into WWI. Somewhere that concept is lost in all of the needless detail. (Or I think it's lost; I couldn't finish the book having been down countless alleys and, after a while, not caring.) It's like someone assigned the author a set number of words and having to meet the quota just filled space (In acamedia it's called research, or trying to impress the teacher.) The story is so circuitous that it's hard following the people, the importance of events and where it's all leading. The narration is horrible! The lady reminds me of the English romance novels my wife listens to. Their diction is so perfect that after a while it sounds like cats fighting in a bag. The narration was so distracting that I found myself purposely tuning it out and missing the gist of the book. Finally, said "enough" and deleted it.
The story starts off ok. With the seating of the new Pope (Francis), I thought the story would be topical. But it's all fluff. The story unwinds fairly straight forward and quickly loses steam. It seems to me the writer wanted to visit Rome, Isreal and some islands and needed to show something (tax write-off?) for it. He would have better served the reader if he had the decency to get over the jet-lag first. The plot, dialogue and characters are tired and we've seen them all before.
This is an exhaustive history focused entirely on the 8th Air Force during World War II. At times it is exhausting reading. The airmen's stories become intensely personal and many, too many, were consigned to early deaths. Miller goes beyond the statistics in attempting to answer why/how does someone who knows the odds are against him (and his crewmates) from returning home climb into an airplane to bomb Germany and fight off the Luftwaffe. The answer lies in thier willingness to do their duty in the most prosaic way. They simply did their jobs without glory-seeking and lived from day to day. There is no attempt to burnish anyone's image. Miller treats straigtforwardly the lack of a long-range fighter escort and the resulting deaths caused by set minds on outmoded doctirnes and the inability for the top brass to have their minds' changed by the reality on the ground and in the air.
I think the book will be more attractive to those interested in World War II. The author makes some basic assumptions: The reader knows something about European geography, war planes nomenclature and the general progress of the war as it moved from west to east. I recommend it highly. One of the better reads so far (March) this year.
As a banker and CPA I found the book enthralling. The characters, and what they schemed and accomplished could have been written last week. I never knew that such sophisticated and complicated financing existed in the 1920's. The author describes the financial details so anyone can understand them. I think he could have better developed the various national economies that Kreuger did business in better. His main focus is on Kreuger and at times it appears he is a universe onto himself apart from world affairs. It seems the world depression was just one of many events that get a mention. One does not get an impression that Kreuger, with all of his financial acumen and personal knowledge of world leaders could have foretold what would happen.
I found the coda far fetched. The author seems to feel that all aspects of Kreuger's death have to be explained or theorized upon. Since none of his scenarios can be verified they take on the aura of the worst of sensationalist tabloid journalism.
Aside from the very last chapter, I found the book fascinating, useful and highly recommend it.
Some authors get into a "grove" for their central character and so it is with Smith. Arkady is the "dumb as a fox" detective (investigator) taking on the entire Soviet system, hating his father and fighting his superiors. He somehow simultaneous loses by winning and wins by losing. The book is still a good read if you limit youself to only one every two years. For me, a shorter time span would make the characters and locations boring. You can always tell that he will solve the case. One other item: Smith's depictions of every day Soviet life are accurate, e.g. car owners do take in their windshield wipers at night and lines for basic essentials are long and tedious. I recommend it with the above caveat.
If you like Big Government solving all problems regardless of the cost or consequences, then you will agree with the author's thesis. I do not subscribe to his arguments and frankly his are not convincing. It's the old canard that society owes those less successful a handout becasue they are not responsible for their adversity. Whatever personal problems an individual has are not their fault. There is a collective guilt that must be atoned by spending more and only Big Government, in its infinite wisdom, knows how to do it. It glorifies "experts" over common sense. The arguments, in many cases, also twist facts or chose them selectively That in all cases our collective sympathy must triumph over reason.
His arguments are tired and old and unconvincing. But then I don't subscribe to the belief that societies all ills must be addressed and remedied by more government whatever the cost or damage both to society or the economy it causes. He believes that more taxes (revenue) and spending (investments) are good unto themselves and neutral to the economy. He discounts individual will to strive and succeed or to overcome. A cabal of the rich, corporations and conservatives stand in the way of utopia with the federal government in the vangard.
Since I was not persuaded by the arguments, I was less than thrilled by the narrator's seeming enthusiasm. He reminds me of old hippie aquiantences I (still) keep in contact with who chase conspiracies, old rock bands, as well as crystal power et. al. and every new (left) fad, gadget, artifice that arrives.
My overall reaction was disgust. I listened and was not persuaded.
As I don't subscribe to the author's politics or economics I found listening frustrating and tedious. The book raises no new persuasive arguments. It's old wine in old bottles. However, if this it your metier, than you will probably find it re-enforcing...certainly not enlightening.
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