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.
Together with “Enigma” and “The Black Tulip” by Milt Bearden, and of course the George Smiley series by John Le Carre, this is one of my few really recommended fictional accounts related to espionage.The art of lying to one’s own people, at multiple levels of duplicity, some venal, much of it unnecessary, has helped to mystify, confuse, and sometimes glorify the intelligence profession.
As an intelligence professional myself, I will simply say that this is one of my top six and that it would not be called fiction if it did not depart for the pure realities as much as it does. This book captures the “essence” of duplicity within government in a time of war, and I find the whole book absolutely captivating and worthwhile.