The maundering rhetoric, all “dudes” and “balls-out” and “badass,” gets old fast, but Thompson’s grasp of history is solid....

BADASS

ULTIMATE DEATHMATCH: SKULL-CRUSHING TRUE STORIES OF THE MOST HARDCORE DUELS, SHOWDOWNS, FISTFIGHTS, LAST STANDS, SUICIDE CHARGES, AND MILITARY ENGAGEMENTS OF ALL TIME

History for the Ted Nugent set—a follow-up to Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live (2009).

In order for a historical moment—in amateur historian Thompson’s hands, almost always a desperate battle—to be worthy of consideration in this catalog of mayhem, it has to involve high stakes, impossible odds and a blaze of glory. On the last point: “The difference between a heroic victory, a valiant last stand, and a crushing defeat is often measured by the badly outnumbered side’s ability to launch a balls-out attack at exactly the right moment.” That’s probably not the way they’d phrase it at West Point, but Thompson’s compendium includes some sterling examples of bravery under fire, some very little known. One, for instance, involved a Russian paratroop unit that fought nearly to the last man in Chechnya, taking out nearly 10 foes for every paratrooper lost. “The Chechens were so impressed by this bold act of bravery,” writes Thompson, “that they named a street after the Russian unit in the Chechen capital of Grozny—no small gesture considering how much these two groups hate each other.” True enough. Many of the author’s other case studies leave their names emblazoned on streets and other places, from Alcibiades to Napoleon to Wyatt Earp, but others are nearly forgotten—e.g., the Nazi fighter ace who later became a consultant to the U.S. Air Force and the unfortunate participants in what Thompson judges to be “history’s dumbest battle,” evidence of which the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire later discovered and was “left trying to piece together…like those dudes in The Hangover.”

The maundering rhetoric, all “dudes” and “balls-out” and “badass,” gets old fast, but Thompson’s grasp of history is solid. Think of it as Thucydides for video gamers.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-211234-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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