An entertaining history of brilliant minds at work against the Nazi behemoth.



A fresh account of “the greatest decryption achievements of [World War II] and the launch of the digital age.”

The satisfying revelations about Allied code-breaking have produced numerous books. The best is probably Stephen Budiansky’s Battle of Wits (2000), but it’s a field with an endless supply of intriguing material. Historical accounts of Bletchley Park emphasize the iconic Enigma machine, which enciphered messages from Germany’s military. In fact, Britain’s massive code-breaking dealt with many traditional codes from Germany, Italy, and Japan as well as other machines. In this page-turning study, Price focuses on a particularly difficult project called “Tunny.” Deployed by Germany in 1942, it used a machine vastly more complex than Enigma to send high-level messages between Berlin and army commands throughout Europe. By 1943, Bletchley had cracked its code, but decrypting a single message took days using the latest calculators, which were mechanical. It was then that Price’s titular geniuses went to work. Recruited by Alan Turing, then a relatively unknown mathematics professor, Max Newman devised a new kind of machine. He worked on it with electrical engineer Tommy Flowers, another Turing protégé, who proposed using electronics, an idea greeted with skepticism because it required vacuum tubes, which were considered unreliable. Despite a lack of enthusiasm, work began, and Price delivers a fascinating account of the problems Flowers and his team overcame before the massive machine called Colossus arrived in January 1944. The first electronic digital computer, it flabbergasted observers by churning out decryptions 500 times faster than before. Soon Bletchley was reading Hitler’s mail. Before the Normandy landings, Allied leaders knew that their deceptions had convinced Hitler that the invasion would occur elsewhere. After victory, all the Colossus machines were destroyed, and their designers returned to civilian life, sworn to secrecy. When the story became public in the 1970s, a few modest honors came their way but not the fame they deserved. Price’s account is unlikely to change this, but he tells a terrific story.

An entertaining history of brilliant minds at work against the Nazi behemoth.

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-52154-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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


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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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