Sisters is not as good as other Littell novels. Nevertheless, in my opinion he is the best writer of the genre and his worst novel trounces the competition from other writers.
The story is set in the 1960's. The anti-heroes are two old bachelor CIA operatives with symbiotic minds. One sees the forest and one sees only the trees. They finish one another?s sentences and one another?s thoughts. When one is stuck, the other has a ready solution. They are called the Sisters (a title that has nothing to do with their sexual orientation, since, for many years, they have both been too obsessed with intelligence work and double think to think of sex.)
Within the agency, they are known to be somewhat strange, but are kept around, nevertheless, because they are occasionally brilliant.
They both believe that the battle between the United States and the Soviet Union is at a decision point and on this point hangs either civilization and freedom or barbarism and slavery.
So, with the presumed blessing of their superiors, they put their heads together to commit the perfect crime. How? They reason that if they can discover the identity of a Soviet agent in deep cover (a sleeper), hijack him, and control his mission, the crime can not be traced to the Sisters of the CIA.
That takes you through the first ten minutes.
The character development is very good. The twists and turns are good, but not as good as in other Littell novels. The ending has a twist (of course) but is not as ambiguous as Littell?s other novels. I recommend Sisters after you have listened to or read Littell?s other novels. The others are better, but Sisters is worth the read.
The author, former director of the Kennedy Library and best historian of the Cuban Missile Crisis, actually listened to the JFK tapes, and you can, too. JFK had A taping system that only he and RFK (and aides who operated the taping system) knew about. The tapes are now public and you can listen to them online. They show that all the movie and TV versions, RFK's book, and McNamara Fog of War documentary are all wrong.
We escaped total nuclear war by sheer luck and the courage of one man. That man was JFK. No one else. In the end, he revoked the standing order to bomb Cuba if a plane was shot down. This angered LeMay, who was ready to launch the attack. Everyone ... Everyone else in the executive committee wanted to launch the attack. What no one knew, because the CIA provided faulty intelligence, was the The Soviets had warheads in Cuba ready to put on the missiles, AND had tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, Khrushchev had transferred authority to use the tactical to his generals on the ground if Kennedy bombed Cuba.
The Russian generals had already decided that, if Cuba was bombed, they would use the tacticals to attack and capture Guantanamo Bay.v. 9,500 American military would have died. There would have been no turning back from total nuclear war.
>There is much, much more in this book. Almost no speculation, since the author has the tapes and interviews with all the American, Soviet, and Cuban senior officials.
>Do you think you know who blinked? Do you think JFK might have lied to Eisenhower and Truman about the outcome? In the end, who did Khrushchev fear and distrust the most - Kennedy or Castro? Can you guess why?
The author gives the website where you can listen to the tapes yourself for free.
The Company A Novel Of The CIA (which is 90% fact) by Robert Littel. Command and Control about all the incidents where we almost blew ourselves up and almost went to nuclear war by accident or misinformation. Untold History by Oliver Stone and others (10 videos on Amazon Instant Video or DVD. A 30 hour audio book on Audible. The print and Kindle books won't be out until this fall.).
For the history that is wrong, but entertaining, try Thirteen Days by Robert Kennedy, the movie with Kevin Costner, and the documentary, The Fog of War. You might also enjoy the right wing book Brothers In Arms. Very entertaining, but often wrong on the facts.
Everything You Know Is Proved Wrong. Or. We Survived By The Skin Of Our Teeth.
Listen to the tapes free online. As scary as any horror movie. Also, you won't believe how smart all these people were. Even then, all except one got it wrong.
This is a great companion to the Oliver Stone video series, available on Amazon Streaming video and DVD. Stone did a test narration for the video in order to match the pacing of the video to the narration. He did such a good job that he and his staff decided to keep his voice and not use a professional voice. He should have read the book as well. The professional voice does a good job. He just does not put his heart into it, like Stone does. I hope Stone will re-record the book with his own voice.
I knew bits and pieces of the untold history, but I could not see how it all fit together. This book fills in the blanks, connects the dots, and tells a coherent story of our history.
If FDR had lived, he might have handled Stalin better than Truman. He might have also stood away from Britain and France, because he objected to their colonial policies in Vietnam, India, Africa, Iran, and the Middle East. And their manipulation of America. There might have been no Cold War.
FDR or Wallace might not have provoked the Soviets (as Britain and France played "lets you and him fight"), but might have engage Stalin as Nixon engaged Mao. Not surrender, but an understanding of history and culture and political realities that would have avoided Mutual Assured Destruction aka Nuclear MAD.
We seemed to push all the wrong buttons, as Churchill, Jimmy Byrnes, and others manipulated Truman to do. Only luck kept us from blowing ourselves up a la the new book Command and Control or blowing each other up a la Cuba 1962 or Archer Able 1983.
The book does not get into British intelligence spy operations in the U.S. Before the Second World War, such as efforts to defeat and destroy congressmen who opposed the Brits and British colonialism. How were we persuaded to give the bomb to the Brits and the French? Why did we allow bombs to be located in and controlled by Germany, Britain, and France during the Eisenhower era? The book gets into these latter questions quite well.
> How are Americans persuaded to overlook actions by some of our corrupt leaders that would disgust us if performed by other countries' leaders? Chile, Iran in 1953, Guademala, Indonesia, Brazil, and many more?
Yes, but Oliver Stone's narration would have been better.
At 30 hours, it is too long for one sitting. . And it is meaty. I will listen to it several times, as I do with the best audiobooks.
This book can be contrasted to The Company by Robert Littel. I think The Company is a great book. However, all the things Littel praises are shown in a different light in Untold History.
For instance, the CIA's reliance on Nazi spies and a Nazi intelligence network made great reading in The Company until Untold History pointed out that the Nazis had their own agenda and gave the CIA a lot of misinformation and disinformation to try to do damage to their hated Russian enemies.
Also, Littel praised The CIA project to parachute Nazi-sympathizer Ukranian nationalists into Ukraine in late 1940's to engage in violence. Untold History points out that this was an act of war and would have led to war if Russia had done this to USA via Mexico or Canada. Also, it violated an agreement between FRD, Churchill, and Stalin, just as current US and EU activities in Ukranian violate an agreement between Gorbachev and Bush 41.
Some of these stories are very good. A few are very disturbing. I am not entertained or educated by a story that tries to place me inside the mind of a pedophile child rapist and killer.
I have listened to this story about 100 times. While falling asleep, on long trips, etc. I always find something new. It is absolutely one of my favorites of all time.
The year is 1967. Brano, an savvy and experienced agent in the state security agency of a Soviet satellite, is a pawn in a game among powers he cannot see and for purposes he does not comprehend. His perspective is much like that of a character in a Kafka novel. As he struggles to understand, to survive, and, most of all, to follow orders, the many layers of manipulation and deception unfold. But who or what is the ultimate puppetmaster and what is he or it up to? Will Brano live long enough to find out?
I, too, thought the author, Jasper Fforde, was a woman. Not so. Jasper is a man. That he can convincingly put himself (and a male reader) into the mind of a woman is, itself, sufficient reason to listen to the series. (In fact, when I heard the preview of the first book, I was sure it was a "woman's book" and I only purchased it and listened because I told a woman friend about it and she challenged me to stretch my brain a bit.)
The new narrator is good. Not as good as the prior narrator, but then again, who could be? She still gives plenty of range and depth to the charcters in her reading.
The writing is consistently witty and original. I loved the antics of two-year-old Friday and the Dodo. Also loved Thursday's single parent prospective: What could be as important in a new job as the challenge of saving the world? How about adequate child care. From shooting a page running minotar with a slapstick dart to the riots of fans at the croquet matches, to the common person's obsession with literary trivia and debate, in substitution for political arguments and sports talk, Jasper will keep you scratching your head and laughing out loud.
You don't have to listen the three earlier books in the series to understand and love this one. Each stands alone. This one begins with a brief description of each character, which is very helpful. A glossory of terms, such as "page runner" might have been helpful, too. But part of the fun is figuring out what the terms and devices are.
Certainly, Lost in a Good Book is the best in the series, but none of the books ran too long or seemed to me to have dry patches. All are fives on a scale of five.
So prepare to stretch your brain and exercise your funny bones.
This isn't as good as The Sunburned Country (Australia) or Notes from a Small Island (the U.K.) or A Short History of Nearly Everything (The Universe, Time, Science, Biology, History, Physics, and almost everything else). It isn't even as good as The Lost Continent (Bryson's other book about returning to America after a 20 year sojourn in England). But as they say about sex, even the worst is still wonderful. The same can be said about this book. It is funny. It is insightful. It is well-written. It is a joy to read and a joy to hear. I've listen to it five times, which is five times less than the number of times I listened to his other audio books.
So when is MOTHER TONGUE coming out as a audiobook?
Scott Brick reads Dean Koonz. The story is Frankenstein (the sequel). I have died and gone to heaven. No, better yet, I have gone to heaven without having to die first. You will, too.
I supported the Bush administration?s preventive war against Iraq because, after September 11, it seemed prudent to invade before Iraq could use its weapons of mass destruction. I cheered when CNN made Scott Ritter a laughing stock because he said Iraq had few if any weapons of mass destruction and invading Iraq was going to make things worse. I cheered when the administration slimed him with rumors and innuendo about his personal life.
When no WMDs were found in Iraq and wild allegations arose that the war was more about election strategy than national security, I decided to go back and see what Ritter was really saying. This 1999 book, by the U.N.?s chief weapons inspector in Iraq for seven years, is on target and amazingly current. It could have been written last week.
Ritter has no kind words for the Clinton administration, Madeline Albright, or the United Nations. His description of Saddam and his cohort will make your skin crawl.
But Ritter?s 1999 description of what would happen if Iraq were invaded is pretty much what happened. He points out that Iraq?s army was so poorly trained and equipped that it could barely march, but could cut and run. Its fighter pilots barely knew how to take off and land. And its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction had been eliminated and, even if a few had not been destroyed, they did not present a credible threat to an invading army.
He also shows that Saddam is a product of Iraq?s history and culture and that overthrowing him is likely to lead instability and something or someone worse.
Ritter offers a way out, albeit an answer that will not satisfy those who want simple, fast, painless solutions. Alas, we will never know if his proposals would have worked.
Today, high government officials are saying ?WE DIDN?T KNOW.? Even Scott Ritter knew. He knew in 1999. And he wrote a book to tell everyone. So they slimed him.
So why isn?t Ritter on CNN saying, ?I told you so!?
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