History is and should not be a chronicle of wars, battles, their plots and plotters. This book shows the way.
Future generations will always wonder how economically and politically the world got shaped so radically and quickly post WW2. Nowhere the transformation was bigger and swifter than in Japan. The book provides a sweeping view of the changes in the first seven year of the war - how a starving nation, that agreed to total pacifism, that was still coming to grips with its own defeat and horrors it perpetuated, that had still not grieved its dead or punished those guilty, was on course to become a economic, political and technological giant - and not just a proper nation - in a handful of years.
It's a story of the vanquished and its victors. The imposition of new ideas, that perhaps drew George W to dream something similar in Iraq. The contrast of what happened in Japan with the economic implosion of Weimar post WW1 or political turmoil of Afghanistan/Iraq post 2001-2 wars must have many more reasons than what is covered here but no such studies can begin without deep knowledge of generally less talked Japan of the 40s.
The author systematically portrays the wide range of emotions the Japanese felt - from hopeless despair to destitution to guilt to anger towards the establishments (including the emperor) to genuflexion to victors to joy at new freedoms and progress. The book takes a highly unbiased view of the US's own attitudes and actions.
The book is a great example of what sort of work deserve the highest awards. A masterclass on a highly important historic period and subject.
Clifton Chronicles in the fourth episode first drifts then decays and by the end simply disintegrates into a purposeless record of a barely interesting family. It keeps trying to evoke reader emotions through the same story tricks used frequently in the previous books but they are no longer charming, if not outright annoying.
Multi-generation accounts are always tricky. The arrow of a usual such story requires an opening in the initial phase that meets some sort of a closure in the climax to hang events across different times and characters together. Relevancy is introduced when an emotional or financial or similar scar or trait continues to affect developments through decades. Without such a glue, the tale could at best be used to show some sort of philosophical meaninglessness of life, where events that appear extremely important in real time turn at best into mildly interesting historic facts later.
If there was ever a hope of some meaning in the saga of the Cliftons before, it is quickly removed in this book. What remains are a series of short stories surrounding the same main characters. However, unlike in the previous versions of the Chronicles and surely far from the mastery displayed in Archer's various short story collections, there are no warm fables or parables here. Rather, the author spends unusually long time just defining the evil guys and their plots and then working out the counter-response of the heroes.
Jeffrey Archer's forte is not in creating the most devilish villains. By the standards of what goes as the baddies in books of our time, the villains of the novel - while without a shade of grey - are almost as mild as those in Jane Austin novels or equivalent of street thugs in their power and influence. The only thing that surpasses their bad deeds in prosaicness is the banality of the good guys' response despite all their wealth, connections and state power.
For some mysterious reasons, the author completely drops the developments of the senior Cliftons - including the three siblings and Harry - where he could have at least provided some good life stories or at least witty interactions with smart dialogues. A couple of decent anecdotes do raise the hope of some of this in the middle of the story (particularly around the Sony delegation visit), but that's all that one gets.
The real tragedy is the author's tendency to overuse the tricks that appeared charming earlier: Archer simply cannot stay away from cliff-hanger votes (in company board meetings this time) or in an unfinished book ending. The expectation of a lack of resolution - a repeat of what has happened in all the previous books - could make many lost interest in the last quarter of the book.
In the least, the author has a lot to do in the last installation of the Chronicles to infuse some sort of relevancy in the series.
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