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Castles of Steel | [Robert K. Massie]

Castles of Steel

In a work of extraordinary narrative power, filled with brilliant personalities and vivid scenes of dramatic action, Robert K. Massie, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Dreadnought, elevates to its proper historical importance the role of sea power in the winning of the Great War.
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Publisher's Summary

In a work of extraordinary narrative power, filled with brilliant personalities and vivid scenes of dramatic action, Robert K. Massie, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Dreadnought, elevates to its proper historical importance the role of sea power in the winning of the Great War.

The predominant image of this first world war is of mud and trenches, barbed wire, machine guns, poison gas, and slaughter. A generation of European manhood was massacred, and a wound was inflicted on European civilization that required the remainder of the twentieth century to heal.

But with all its sacrifice, trench warfare did not win the war for one side or lose it for the other. Over the course of four years, the lines on the Western Front moved scarcely at all; attempts to break through led only to the lengthening of the already unbearably long casualty lists.

For the true story of military upheaval, we must look to the sea. On the eve of the war in August 1914, Great Britain and Germany possessed the two greatest navies the world had ever seen. When war came, these two fleets of dreadnoughts - gigantic floating castles of steel able to hurl massive shells at an enemy miles away - were ready to test their terrible power against each other.

Their struggles took place in the North Sea and the Pacific, at the Falkland Islands and the Dardanelles. They reached their climax when Germany, suffocated by an implacable naval blockade, decided to strike against the British ring of steel. The result was Jutland, a titanic clash of fifty-eight dreadnoughts, each the home of a thousand men.

When the German High Seas Fleet retreated, the kaiser unleashed unrestricted U-boat warfare, which, in its indiscriminate violence, brought a reluctant America into the war. In this way, the German effort to “seize the trident” by defeating the British navy led to the fall of the German empire.

Ultimately, the distinguishing feature of Castles of Steel is the author himself. The knowledge, understanding, and literary power Massie brings to this story are unparalleled. His portrayals of Winston Churchill, the British admirals Fisher, Jellicoe, and Beatty, and the Germans Scheer, Hipper, and Tirpitz are stunning in their veracity and artistry.

Castles of Steel is about war at sea, leadership and command, courage, genius, and folly. All these elements are given magnificent scope by Robert K. Massie’s special and widely hailed literary mastery.

From the Hardcover edition.

©2003 Robert K. Massie (P)2012 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

Praise for Robert K. Massie’s Dreadnought:
“Dreadnought is history in the grand manner, as most people prefer it: how people shaped, or were shaped by, events.” (Time)

“A classic [that] covers superbly a whole era...engrossing in its glittering gallery of characters.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

“[Told] on a grand scale...Massie [is] a master of historical portraiture and anecdotage.” (The Wall Street Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (75 )
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4.5 (66 )
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4.6 (68 )
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3 star
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2 star
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  •  
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 09-22-12
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 09-22-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Stick With It!"

    I'm glad I did. I stopped listening a few different times, went on to other newer books, but always returned once complete. I flew through the second half of this book....once Massie gets the main characters introduced it really picks up. I am a history enthusiast, but admittedly knew next to nothing about WWI naval engagements aside from the famous sinking of Louisitania and perhaps one other. This book is the "soup to nuts" overview of WWI naval power, ship types, war strategies, key players and specific battles. I have read one other Massie book (Peter the Great), though I had not read Dreadnought prior to this (I’m not sure if that would have made the experience better or worse, but I have heard excellent reviews of that book as well). Like with Peter the Great, Massie finds a way to take what would normally be dry textbook type material and bring it to life so it reads like an extremely well written piece of fiction. The narration for Castles of Steel was some of the best I have heard; I am well over 50 audiobooks and this was near the top. He does a masterful job with all three main accents- British, German and American. If you find this subject matter even remotely interesting, give it a try-- you won't be disappointed!

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Moore Bay Area, CA USA 11-17-13
    Michael Moore Bay Area, CA USA 11-17-13 Member Since 2005

    mcubed33

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Riveting Account!"

    Robert Massie served a tour of duty onboard a US aircraft carrier. That may account in part for his remarkable ability to describe in vivid and insightful detail the weather conditions, shipboard activity, and battle capabilities of the naval vessels that took part in World War I. His eye for insightful detail extends to his descriptions of the high level strategic debates that took place in the British and German war cabinets and admirals’ councils that made the crucial decisions which in the end determined the outcome of the war. In particular, the German decision finally endorsed by the Kaiser in 1917 to authorize unrestricted submarine warfare against all neutral merchant shipping in an effort to bring Britain to its knees through lack of supplies and foodstuffs instead led to the decisive entry of the US into the war that year.

    Most interesting throughout the book are the decisive roles played by minor incidents of incompetence, hesitation, miscommunication, or misjudgment based on human foibles or the confusion and fog of war. These include Admiral Milne’s failure to block the battle cruiser Goebben from escaping to the Dardanelles; Captain Thompson’s careless handling of critical intelligence that could have turned the tide in the Battle of Jutland; the failure of Admiral Beatty’s flag officer to assure clear and proper signaling of the Admiral’s orders; the British Admiralty’s failure to immediately pass on critical intelligence during the Battle of Jutland to Jellicoe because the communication room was left in the hands of a clueless low level officer.

    All in all, a very interesting account that will provide a rich source of lessons on the critical decisions made by the naval leaders in World War I.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan McGrew Safford, AZ 02-25-13
    Dan McGrew Safford, AZ 02-25-13

    Military History and Archaeology

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great History on the British and German Navies"
    Where does Castles of Steel rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the Best


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Castles of Steel?

    The narrator does a wonderful job with bringing Winston Churchill to life.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book keep me interested in the events discribed


    Any additional comments?

    This is one of the best books you'll find on the subject

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lrjanzen Cumberland, RI, United States 05-03-13
    lrjanzen Cumberland, RI, United States 05-03-13 Member Since 2013
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    7
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    "Well Done the Definitive work on the subject"
    What did you love best about Castles of Steel?

    Massie's Great story telling and combinaton of personal sketches and chronical prose.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    N/A


    Have you listened to any of Richard Matthews’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Excellent book on the subject of the Naval war.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin F. Jacobson USA 08-11-14 Member Since 2013

    Amature Pedagogue

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    "Very Interesting Book"

    A really interesting topic, one I've honestly never given much mind to, and Massie has clearly done his research. He writes a smooth, clear narrative and does his best to provide color and flesh to the characters who inhabit the story. The narrator, Richard Matthews, does a fantastic job creating small differences in accent to accentuate nationality, and even does decent impersonations of major characters who had distinctive voices (looking at you, Churchill).

    My main complaint is that the story seems to focus mostly on the lead-up to the war, and the first year or two. After the Gallipoli Campaign, the book pretty quickly reaches the end and feels a bit hurried.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William R. Toddmancillas Chico, California United States 08-03-14
    William R. Toddmancillas Chico, California United States 08-03-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent, riveting expository."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Castles of Steel to be better than the print version?

    I suspect the audio is a better experience than the print version. The action comes alive when an expert narrator renders the story.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Castles of Steel?

    How the two fleets missed one another. It would have been a colossal battle. I had no idea that the sea battles played such a crucial, dramatic role during WW2. I have previously known only about the land battles.


    Which character – as performed by Richard Matthews – was your favorite?

    I was particularly struck by how obstinate and arrogant was Churchill.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. I listen for an hour or so and then come back to "listenings" later.


    Any additional comments?

    Well worth the time to listen to this audio.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill Gainesville, VA, United States 07-14-13
    Bill Gainesville, VA, United States 07-14-13
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    "Great Overview of the WWI War at Sea"
    What did you love best about Castles of Steel?

    The narrator does a great job of presenting Massie's narrative history of the WW I war at sea, a pivotal facet of this great struggle between empires. Key players, motivations, events and outcomes are described in a form easy to comprehend. If the listener wants to understand the importance of the influence the powerful navies had on this conflict, consider this book.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The insight easily acquired into the actions taken by key players, from Jellico, to Beaty, Churchill, Fisher, Hipper, Scharnhorst, the Kaiser and many others. This is a great example of the power of narrative history to hold a reader's interest.


    Have you listened to any of Richard Matthews’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is the first I've heard. I enjoyed the experience end-to-end. I will happily listen to Mr. Mathews again.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David THOMASVILLE, GA, United States 04-15-13
    David THOMASVILLE, GA, United States 04-15-13
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    "Excellent Naval History"
    Where does Castles of Steel rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It is an excellent naval history of World War I.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Winston Churchill because of his interaction with naval officers.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Battle of Jutland


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Not sure.


    Any additional comments?

    This is not a short work but like all of Massie's books, it is very thorough and very well done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yevhen Chicago, IL, United States 02-19-13
    Yevhen Chicago, IL, United States 02-19-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Highly opinionated history of WW1."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    It was not.
    From the book this long, I did expect the analysis of all ships, including comparative analysis of german to british ones(with numbers!). details of their built, armor, engineering decisons . Why there were different types of ships.

    Instead, into 2 hours of this book I get the usual non informative british view of how ww1 started and why germans were bad guys.
    This includes even churchill quotes. Sorry, not everybody loves churchill.

    Unless you are fan of british politics, buy something else.

    This one can be probably a good illustration of how british establishment sees WW1. nothing else.


    What could Robert K. Massie have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Not a thing


    2 of 11 people found this review helpful
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