Filled with the intrigue and high stakes of a spy novel, Jacobsen’s history of DARPA is as much a fascinating testament to...

THE PENTAGON'S BRAIN

AN UNCENSORED HISTORY OF DARPA, AMERICA'S TOP-SECRET MILITARY RESEARCH AGENCY

The history of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s top-secret research and development agency.

During the Cold War, the arms race between the United States and Soviet Union was a result of the belief in mutually assured destruction. If one nation were to strike with nuclear weapons, it would precipitate its own downfall. This constant tension created a unique environment in which the American military needed to invest heavily in new arms and technology to stay one step ahead of their Soviet foes. Officially created in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower, DARPA was tasked with leading the military’s efforts to develop the means to prevent a Soviet nuclear strike or invasion. The department quickly evolved to encompass all manners of defense, including cutting-edge psychological and biological warfare. Jacobsen (Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America, 2014, etc.) is no stranger to secretive government projects, and she weaves a dramatic history of the agency that exposes, through newly declassified documents and firsthand interviews with former DARPA scientists, the astounding and often terrifying developments that emerged from the program. One of the greatest pleasures of Jacobsen’s thoroughly crafted narrative is the anachronisms of obsolete high-tech. For instance, the author details the development of ARPANET, the predecessor to today’s Internet, and the room-sized computers that it was designed to use. However, not all DARPA projects are as apolitical and quaint. There is the unavoidable truth that DARPA was created to develop sophisticated weaponry designed to annihilate populations. One of the most egregious examples is Agent Orange, the extremely toxic defoliant. Chronicling DARPA to the present day, Jacobsen also sketches portraits of the immensely brilliant, ambitious, and flawed scientists that dedicated themselves to science and country.

Filled with the intrigue and high stakes of a spy novel, Jacobsen’s history of DARPA is as much a fascinating testament to human ingenuity as it is a paean to endless industrial warfare and the bureaucracy of the military-industrial complex.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-37176-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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