A riveting, timely book sure to be one of the most significant of the year.

DARK MIRROR

EDWARD SNOWDEN AND THE AMERICAN SURVEILLANCE STATE

A three-time Pulitzer winner digs deep into “the surveillance state that rose up after [9/11], when the U.S. government came to believe it could not spy on enemies without turning its gaze on Americans as well.

In 2010, Gellman left the investigative team of the Washington Post, where he had developed journalistic expertise in national security issues and topics related to surveillance and digital encryption. By 2013, as he was figuring out his career as a freelance author, his life changed dramatically: He was visited by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who had been approached by a then-anonymous whistleblower with alleged access to evidence of surveillance conducted illegally on American citizens by federal government agencies. Gellman’s masterful narrative proceeds along two primary tracks. One relates the life story of the whistleblower, the now-famous Edward Snowden. The other is a primer about investigative journalism regarding one of the highest-risk exposés in U.S. history. As the author unspools his own saga, he also delivers an endlessly insightful narrative about the practice of investigative journalism, a book that deserves its place alongside All the President’s Men, Five Days at Memorial, Nickel and Dimed, and other classics of the genre. Gellman sets both skillful narrative tracks within the vital context of how a panicky network of federal government officials asserted their authority to break seemingly any privacy law or regulation in the wake of 9/11. The author does not view his role as advocate or dissenter. Rather, throughout the book, he sees his mission as informing all readers about the extent of government overreach into private lives. “The reader is entitled to know up front that I think Snowden did substantially more good than harm,” writes Gellman, “even though I am prepared to accept (as he is not) that his disclosures must have exacted a price in lost intelligence.” Explaining the illegal government surveillance requires cutting through a mountain of technological jargon, a task the author handles expertly.

A riveting, timely book sure to be one of the most significant of the year.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59420-601-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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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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