William Manchester was the greatest American biographer of his generation. He was a great, powerful writer on his own, and he chose subjects well worthy of his talents. His account of MacArthur's long, rich, and consequential life traces a life and character that would be considered too far-fetched in a fictional character. Tom Parker's reading is perfectly pitched to Manchester's writing. (Parker also does an awesome job of reading Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back, a book I'd started to read several times; in Parker's hands, the story is riveting, and there is no question of stopping.)
This is a very well told story of an admirable and proud people who are being sacrificed at the behest of a brutal, uncaring, solipsist regime that early on classified the bulk of its population as "hostiles."
The book is organized around a number of family accounts, based on interviews with "defectors" (escapees would be a more accurate term), and the author's limited and strictly monitored visits to North Korea. These accounts are illuminating, many are touching, revealing story the humanity of the oppressed.
The Kim dynasty is simply another cult of personality which has long outlived whatever credibility it once had, and it survives simply through a vast repressive apparatus of spies, informants, agents provocateur, and brute force. This story, rooted in the political catastrophes of the 20th century, shows once again that even in the most "total" of totalitarian societies, the human spirit always survives. The regime will inevitably collapse, sooner rather than later; but the question is how many more must starve to death or die in detention camps before that happens.
Dostoevsky is amazing, particularly his dialogue. Simon Vance is voice actor, and is able to create vivid characterizations for the wide cast of TBK. Together, an awesome experience.
The content and the narration by the reader are first rate. I have read a number of books on this topic, but the debates and Einstein's implacable thought-experimenting are re-created here with particular clarity, drama, and verve.
This book reads well on the printed page, but reads even better with Tom Parker doing the reading for you. His voice captures the laconic mix of grit, horror, humor, stubborness, unheroic courage, and tragedy that characterized the American infantryman in WW II.
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