A solid demonstration of how an insistence on secrecy proved to be a fatal breakdown as the Japanese attack loomed. A good...

A MATTER OF HONOR

PEARL HARBOR: BETRAYAL, BLAME, AND A FAMILY'S QUEST FOR JUSTICE

This evenhanded exposé of the scapegoating of the commander in chief of the Pacific fleet at the time of Pearl Harbor challenges official memory.

Adm. Husband Kimmel was roundly blamed for the destruction of the fleet at Pearl Harbor and loss of 2,403 lives on that terrible day of Dec. 7, 1941, but as co-authors Summers and Swan (The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11, 2011, etc.) show, he was conveniently used to hiding many missteps by his Washington, D.C., superiors. Both Kimmel and the Army’s Hawaiian commander, Lt. Gen. Walter Short, were forced into retirement after the debacle. The subsequent official fact-finding commission (the first of nine), the Roberts Report, blamed them for “dereliction of duty,” and they were charged with having failed to “confer and cooperate” with warnings by Washington leading up to the surprise Japanese attack. Kimmel dedicated the rest of his life to challenging these charges and vindicating his name. The truth, as close as the authors can ascertain, is that the intercepts cracking a Japanese supercode were not adequately shared with Kimmel, although Washington officials assumed that they had been. The key middleman in this failure to pass on valuable intelligence information was Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark, who was ostensibly Kimmel’s longtime friend yet withheld critical information from him—e.g., the telltale Japanese dispatch of Sept. 24, which requested that Pearl Harbor be divided into special zones for the location of specific kinds of ships. Moreover, Kimmel was out of the loop in knowing about the deterioration of diplomatic negotiations between Japanese representatives and Washington in the final weeks leading to the attack, while the traffic analysts guessed that Japanese heavy carriers (which no one could locate) must be in home waters. In the end, the authors find enough blame, high and low, to go around.

A solid demonstration of how an insistence on secrecy proved to be a fatal breakdown as the Japanese attack loomed. A good complement to Steve Twomey’s Countdown to Pearl Harbor (2016).

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-240551-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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