There’s enough here to make concerned readers want to learn more about Kony, whose forces have dwindled even as he continues...

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ARMY OF GOD

JOSEPH KONY'S WAR IN CENTRAL AFRICA

A graphic narrative illuminates the atrocities of Joseph Kony in Central Africa, yet the horror and the complexities of the story are a challenge for such a short work.

The figures themselves are staggering: By 2011, Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army “had abducted at least 50,000 people and killed at least 12,000. No fewer than two million people in three countries had been displaced by Kony’s attacks.” Yet it took a viral video titled “Kony 2012” to stir massive public outrage, and even that was undermined when the head of the Invisible Children organization devoted to raising consciousness “cracked under the strain” of the attention. That provocative episode is given short shrift in the narrative, as is much else in a story of little more than 80 pages. Axe (War Is Boring, 2010, etc.) and Hamilton (Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation, 2009) don’t fully come to terms with Kony, though they do suggest the difficulty of such a challenge: “Dominated by its mysterious, volatile founder Joseph Kony and governed by a complex body of rules, customs and superstitions, the LRA is ostensibly a fundamentalist Christian religious movement, an army of God. In reality it bears no resemblance to Christian institutions elsewhere. Its methods are rape and pillage. Its major aim is to sustain itself.” The artistic rendering of rape and slaughter is as powerful as it is horrific, and the narrative hits hardest on an individual, human level in the chapter about a young girl, kidnapped by the LRA and forced into “marriage,” and the ongoing trauma after she was rescued at age 13.

There’s enough here to make concerned readers want to learn more about Kony, whose forces have dwindled even as he continues to elude capture, but the condensing of the graphic narrative falls short of the immensity of the barbarism.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61039-299-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.

THE ORDER OF THE DAY

A meditation on Austria’s capitulation to the Nazis. The book won the 2017 Prix Goncourt.

Vuillard (Sorrow of the Earth: Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull and the Tragedy of Show Business, 2017, etc.) is also a filmmaker, and these episodic vignettes have a cinematic quality to them. “The play is about to begin,” he writes on the first page, “but the curtain won’t rise….Even though the twentieth of February 1933 was not just any other day, most people spent the morning grinding away, immersed in the great, decent fallacy of work, with its small gestures that enfold a silent, conventional truth and reduce the entire epic of our lives to a diligent pantomime.” Having established his command of tone, the author proceeds through devastating character portraits of Hitler and Goebbels, who seduced and bullied their appeasers into believing that short-term accommodations would pay long-term dividends. The cold calculations of Austria’s captains of industries and the pathetic negotiations of leaders who knew that their protestations were mainly for show suggest the complicated complicity of a country where young women screamed for Hitler as if he were a teen idol. “The bride was willing; this was no rape, as some have claimed, but a proper wedding,” writes Vuillard. Yet the consummation was by no means as smoothly triumphant as the Nazi newsreels have depicted. The army’s entry into Austria was less a blitzkrieg than a mechanical breakdown, one that found Hitler stalled behind the tanks that refused to move as those prepared to hail his emergence wondered what had happened. “For it wasn’t only a few isolated tanks that had broken down,” writes the author, “not just the occasional armored truck—no, it was the vast majority of the great German army, and the road was now entirely blocked. It was like a slapstick comedy!” In the aftermath, some of those most responsible for Austria’s fall faced death by hanging, but at least one received an American professorship.

In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59051-969-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...

THUNDERSTRUCK

A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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