4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent FIrst Effort, Misses a Lot of the Crime and Complexity,March 21, 2012
I agreed to review this book, which was a gift. Normally I do not do non-fiction, but the topic of this book — the abject total corruption of our entire political system (from the two-party tyranny to the bloated corrupt government) is important to me, so I agreed.
As a first effort, it is a fine book, and certainly valuable as a “lite” telling of the American story of legalized crime and conspiracy. Unfortunately, it does not go nearly far enough, once again proving that non-fiction is much scarier than fiction. It's hard to get too excited about a fictional version when you have all lived through the real thing.
To the author's great credit, I learned things from this book–always my objective–and it is therefore more than fiction, it is a window into reality. The book ends with six questions for book clubs and overall is very well presented. I would have been more impressed if the author had listed some of the books below as sources–I get the feeling going through the book that the author drew more on Internet and media sources than on actual books. There are important observations throughout the book, not least of which is the fact that Obama gets away with things that a Republican white president would never get away with. He is the perfect house servant for the criminals that consider the USA to be their personal looting preserve.
Here are non-fiction books (you can just read my summary reviews, and also explore at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, among the 98 categories in which I read, many of them focused on the deep corruption that characterizes all organizations we rely on:
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Blend of Rigorous & Populist History,February 24, 2012
I have read The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War (Modern Library), which the author himself acknowledges as one of the best books about Gettysburg – but also one that bought into the prevalent myths. This book is the equal of Killer Angels in its atmospheric electricity, certainly the equal if not more moving with respect to “aha” professional insights and “feeling in the fingertips” gut-wrenchers (I counted six goose-bump moments reading Cain, I recall only one in reading Killer Angels), and vastly more important than Killer Angels in the grand scheme of things because this author and this book have restored the reputation of General George Meade at his finest hour – given the Army THREE DAYS before Gettysburg, and leading that Army to the single most important victory of the Civil War, however one may view that war while also instantly assessing and correcting the mistakes of his predecessor, the most important being a scattered leaderless army.
This is a book written by a professional military officer who is also a historian, a brilliant and often poetic author of both non-fiction and historical fiction better than dry academic texts, and an adventurer who knows the world from gutter to grand salons.
The book concludes with a very clear explanation of how General Meade's reputation was ruined by a scheming General Sickles, and how some of the main characters fared after the war of secession. More to the point, this is the definitive book that rescues the reputation of General Meade. While there are many other books, one in particular being Meade: Victor of Gettysburg (Military Profiles), no other book can match the eloquence, authenticity, and level of detail of this ultra-historical and poetic work of redemption.
Here are some of the professional highlights that I noted down – I do not report the goose bump moments–for those, buy the book.
Ralph Peters is an acquired taste for some, an addiction for others. I am in the latter camp and read everything he publishes, with a strong preference for his non-fiction books about reality, war, and the general lack of integrity across both governments and corporations.
The book is full of gifted phrases and insights, a few of which stick with me now:
— Staff officer's smile
— Idiocy of military classifying a BBC documentary
— How far the mighty can fall
— Army swooning for computers, losing its collective mind
— Broken promises (or lost integrity) = men die
This book, while good, is not as good (at least for me) as his first military-industrial complex book, Traitor, where the detail was chilling and compelling. I also liked The Devil's Garden This particular new book is certainly a good read, and I endorse the other positive reviews, but for Ralph Peters at his very best, I recommend his non-fiction and his Civil War novels, the latter written under a pseudonym.
Really great with disappointing ending, March 16, 2008
I agree with the thrust of the other reviewers, to wit, there is a lot of cleverness in this book, but ultimately it disappoints at the very end (GREAT book, the last page is a flop).
However, as I was desperate for a read at Fort Bragg this past week, and I read the book all the way through, it merits both a review and a passing comment.
First, the author has done his homework and also provides an epilog that points at several books I link to below. That raised him from three to four stars in my estimation. This was a great book right up to the end when it wimped out with a one-paragraph flop of a conclusion.
Second, I am persuaded that religions as now organized are a form of organized crime, and that we would all do better going with unitarian communitarian approaches in which we deal direct with God on a personal basis, and direct with one another on a community basis. With a handful of exceptions (Rabbi Lerner, Archbishop Tutu) most church “officials are in my view santimonious frauds, and any fictional book that helps portray that is inherently useful.
Adequate Airplane Book, Not Top-Notch Fictional History,
February 29, 2004
There is a great deal of potential in fictional history books, such as the Da Vinci Code, and there is no more exciting topic for such books than the cross-over between espionage, religious conspiracy, and genocide.Unfortunately, while this book is adequate to an airplane ride, it is not as good as the author's stunningly good earlier work, “The Unlikely Spy”, and it is disappointing in terms of its coverage of the Israeli Mossad, the Catholic Church (for a better non-fiction read, see “The Keys of This Blood”), and its over-all lack of critical detail.One small example: intelligence professionals do not throw radios (usually with embedded encryption) into the ocean because their subordinates have annoyed them. This was just one of several details that were off-putting, and that made it clear the author was rushing a book out and not doing the homework–nor being held accountable by the publisher for being serious.
As one of those who served on the Central American Task Force at CIA and in the field, I was fascinated to learn of this book by one of America's greatest espionage warriors–not only did he run the Afghan war from the field, he was also Chief of the Soviet Division and Chief of Station in Germany, the equivalent of an Olympic “clean sweep.” I read this book critically.
It is simply super, and full of nuances that get better with a second reading. The most important of these is the thoughtful manner in which the fall of the Soviet military in Afghanistan is related to the subsequent weakening of the Soviet hold over Eastern Europe, a hold that eventually broke and led to the unification of Germany and chaos in those portions of Eastern Europe where neither Europe nor the US was ready to help convert communists to capitalists. This is an inspiring book that shows in great detail how covert action–behind the lines action–can serve a great nation. This book will cleanse the palate of all those who soured on covert action as done so badly (and occasionally in violation of the law) in Central America.
Evidently I bought the last used copy, released for public sale by the Indianapolis Public Library–too bad, since we need more young spies from that area and they would have been highly motivated by this book. I hope the publisher reissues it, this is a tale that is much more truth than fiction, and of lasting value to those who would understand the deeper value of covert action in the national service. We still need spies, there is still great evil around the world, and I can only hope that books like this will help the clandestine service recruit those with “the right stuff.”
Uses Fiction to Illuminate Non-Fictional Scenario,
December 7, 2003
Although I rarely read or review fiction, this book leaped into my consciousness, in part because I just reviewed a book on the Vatican and its use of spies as well as its vulnerability to spies from Italy and Germany, among others, and because I am very interested in the concepts of both institutional corruption vis a vis historical myths, and the alleged infallibility of the pope. More recently, I have taken an interest in religious subversion of national governments and policies, and strongly recommend Stephen Mumford's “The Life & Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U. S. Population Policy”, which is still available from Amazon via the used book channels.The Da Vinci Code is most interesting, not because of its bashing of Opus Dei, but because it addresses what may be the core injustice in Catholicism (I was raised a Jesuit Catholic in Colombia, with roots in Spain): the concealment of the normal sexuality of Jesus, his marriage, and the fact that until the mid-1800's, the Church did not dare to claim that the Pope was infallible, and that all that preceded that claim was based merely on a man's prophecies. Jesus, in other words, can not lay any greater claim to our faith than Mohammed.Most relevant to me, as I consider the need for elevating women to positions of power because they are more intuitive, more integrative, and less confrontational than men, was the book's discussion of the origins of paganism (not satanic at all, but rather worshiping Mother Earth and specifically the human female mothers from whom life obviously emerged) and the manner in which the Catholic Church deliberately set out to slander Mary Magdalene, making her out to be a whore rather than the spouse of Jesus (from whom issue came), and murdering five million women in a witch-hunt and global psychological operations against women that has been mirrored by Islam in many ways, and that must, if we are to survive, be reversed by thoughtful people willing to think for themselves.
This book, riveting in every way, suggested to me that we the people need to doubt the integrity and intentions of all our institutions, but especially the Catholic Church; and that we need to reverse the centuries of discrimination against women, restore the matriarchal roots of society, and again begin to respect the natural relationship between ourselves and the Earth that we have defiled precisely because we have allowed men to abuse women, and corporations to assume legal manly personalities abusive of governments and the tax-payer.
This is a revolutionary book. If it causes you to question authority and re-think your relationships, you cannot have made a better purchase.