Hunter’s prose is wooden, his experiences rather formulaic, but he offers singular glimpses of the Iraqis’ harsh,...

EIGHT LIVES DOWN

A British Royal Logistic Corps captain shares his experiences of front-line service in Iraq.

Trained in IRA and Colombian FARC tactics of bomb construction, 31-year-old Hunter shipped out to Iraq in 2004 for a 101-day tour disposing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and rooting out bomber teams. Despite his disgruntled wife (she wanted him back home in Oxfordshire) and two small daughters, Hunter admits that after 13 years on the job he still found its dangers and risks exhilarating. That may not be the adjective that comes to readers’ minds as they peruse his narrative, written as a present-tense diary of his tour of duty. IEDs created havoc for the troops in some 2,000 attacks a month, and sniffing out insurgents and their homemade bombs in a country where Westerners were angrily resented was perilous and extremely dicey work. Soldiers were both witting and unwitting provokers of disaster. Hunter saw a husband give his pregnant wife a severe beating after her burqa slipped and the British gazed at her face. He did nothing, he later explained to his men, because he’d heard about what happened when some fellow soldiers retaliated against a man who had beaten his 11-year-old daughter—the father cut her throat “to save his honor.” Neutralizing banks of explosives was a punishing, thankless task, and Hunter was frequently plagued by guilt and sadness about the violence he and the Americans inflicted. Eventually, he had to say goodbye to the other blokes (lots of jocular Briticisms here); he was promoted to major and got a desk job as a staff officer, leaving the situation in Iraq much the same as when he arrived. Ponderous platitudes from Gandhi to Gilda Radner form epigraphs to each chapter but don’t add much gravitas.

Hunter’s prose is wooden, his experiences rather formulaic, but he offers singular glimpses of the Iraqis’ harsh, hardscrabble lives.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-553-80683-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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