I'm a huge fan of Lethem and was really excited to see he had a new book out. Unfortunately, I found this book disappointing, for two reasons. First and foremost, Lethem may be (is) a good writer but he's a lousy narrator. This is one of the worst narrations I have listened to. Second, I found it difficult to sympathize with any of the characters. Unlike his previous books (and I think I have read them all), none of the characters are compelling in any way. I was marginally interested in the complainer, but we get little or no insight into his motivation or character. I can't say that I recommend this book, but if you are a die-hard Lethem fan I suppose you shouldn't take my word for it.....
I was familiar with the basic history of the events described in this book. Even though I new how it would end I still found it suspenseful and compelling. It's an action/spy story with no guns, no explosions, no car chases, and yet still captivating. Now 50+ years after the events recounted here, I guess most listeners would know very little about this somewhat obscure period in modern-ish history. Now is a chance to learn, in a painless, even enjoyable way, a bit of history that everyone really ought to know. The book is well written, well researched, well paced, and well performed. I definitely recommend it.
The book is a glimpse into the past that helps us understand the present. It is neither dry nor boring. It reads more like a novel than a history book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and had difficulty pushing "stop" at times. If you like politics and current affairs/news, you will like this book.
First off, contrary to what other reviewers have said, I thought Ganser was a better narrator than Scott Brick. I've heard lots of Brick's work (how can you miss it?) and generally like him, but his performance on The President's Assassin was nothing to write home about.
This was the second book of Haig's I have listened too. I did The President's Assassin first, and then Man in the Middle. Man in the Middle seems to follow pretty much the same formula as The President's Assassin. I won't give plot details away for either book. I'll just say that Haig seemed a little lazy, like he was recycling the plot with just enough changed so it wasn't duplication. I could give a dozen or so examples to support this claim, but they would give away the plot for both books. The other similarity between the books, and here I don't think I am giving anything away, is that Haig seems to think that EVERYONE is solely motivated by the need to avoid embarrassment. I don't think this is true, and as a result I found a few of the plot details difficult to swallow. It's still a fun and pleasant story with enough intrigue and plot twists to keep you listening.
I was excited about starting this book, but I barely made it to the end. It reads like someone's history MA thesis. It's full of detail, that gets repeated many times before the end, but short on actual synthesis. It repeatedly insinuates conspiracy without ever actually accusing anyone. My father, a lifelong bureaucrat, always told me not to assume conspiracy when incompetence is a possible explanation. That pretty much summarizes my take on this episode in American history. I am fully prepared to believe that there were many incompetent bureaucrats involved, but the constant insinuation that everyone actively covered this up because they were afraid it would make them look bad doesn't ring true to me. And to make the book more disappointing, it ends before his body was discovered in 2009, the circumstances of which seem to pretty much disprove the author's thesis.
This book would have been better as a long piece in the New Yorker or some similar outlet. There just isn't enough here to make a compelling and interesting book. Hopefully someone will make an abridged version of it. You can get the whole story in a nutshell by reading the Wikipedia entry.
This book is competently written, but the author seems to be 'making the most' out of what he had to work with. This episode in the second Gulf War in interesting, but neither is it particularly compelling, nor particularly novel. It is not compelling because, in a reporter's effort to 'cover the event,' the story jumps from one subject to another, never hovering long enough to really become invested in the people who lived through this. There is no particular insight into either 'men and war' or 'the war itself'. It's just a competent reporting job.
One of the previous reviewers described the book as "better than Black Hawk Down" -- on the strength of which I bought the book. I don't see it myself. The Battle for Mogadishu was a far more compelling story. The battle described in Thunder Run never seemed on the verge of getting out of American control, despite the author's best attempts to inject some degree of drama. For sure it must have been terrifying for those involved, but the situation was completely different. In Baghdad the the 3rd ID had main battle tanks and Bradly fighting vehicles. They had a great deal of close air support, they had (big 120mm) mortars, they had paladin howitzers. They basically always had superior firepower and were never really in danger of loosing it. Mogadishu was completely differ (again, despite the author's attempt to draw a comparison). The rangers had only helicopter gun support, no mortars, no artillery, no CAS. They had no armor on their convoys, they were out gunned most of the time. There was a very real chance that they would lose the entire unit. Things never looked so desperate for the 3rd ID in Baghdad.
Thunder Run is probably worth a listen if you are a gulf war history buff. A far better book, IMHO, about combat soldiers in Iraq, is House to House, by David Bellavia. It's about mechanized infantry in Fallujia. It is a very powerful first person account of a far longer and, for those involved, intense period of fighting. Far more gripping, one feels far more invested in the people, and it is better narrated.
Whatever your feelings about the war in Iraq, you will find this book compelling, horrible, heartbreaking, and uplifting, all at once. Bellavia is (seemingly) completely honest, utterly introspective and self aware, and, it turns out, a damn fine writer. The narrative is, for the most part, tight and taught; the book well edited. Porter does a fantastic job narrating this book. I recommend it to everyone, conservative and liberal alike.
These were and are brave men, and the account is harrowing at times. It is not account of mission success and glory for our troops, it's also not really an account of special operations, although everyone involved was a special operator. It is an account of about 24 hrs and a lot of pain and heart ache that follows from one bad decision after another. You won't learn much from the account except for the loyalty that soldiers have toward each other. I enjoyed it, but I won't say I recommend it wholeheartedly.
This book was very entertaining and enlightening. Like many Americans, I have followed the wars through the new for the last 10+ years. I was aware of many of the actual historical events that are backdrops to this story. What I really liked was getting a glimpse behind the headlines, and seeing how the 'operators' that caused the events, and why.
The book is not, and does not try to be, comprehensive. Nevertheless, there is enough there to provide a pretty good review. It certainly made me want to read other books that provide a critical synthesis of the wars and politics.
I enjoyed the whole book, but it did sag a little toward the end. Even that was interesting, but not as good as the first 4/5ths or so. Still, I highly recommend this book.
My wife and I listened to this with our 13 year old son. We all enjoyed the book tremendously. Previous reviews stressed two issues that made me hesitant to get this book: the gruesome descriptions of war, and the unsatisfying ending. We did not find the gruesome bits to be too oppressing, and we thought that the ending was clear even if some of the details were left out.
The book is at turns heartbreaking and hopeful. The narrator was fantastic, perfectly chosen for this book. We strongly recommend this book to you.
A wonderful fantasy, this book is at once an epic adventure, a coming of age story, a battle between good and evil, and a meditation on baseball. Chabon is a fantastic writer of great fiction, and the Summerland won't disappoint. And, surprisingly, Chabon is also an excellent narrator! My 13 year old son adored this book and so did I.
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