FIRES OF THE DRAGON

POLITICS, MURDER, AND THE KUOMINTANG

A stranger-than-fiction thriller that puts the bitter conflict between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan into clear, human perspective. Kaplan (coauthor, Yakuza, 1986) uses the opportunistic life and violent death of Henry Liu to trace how the PRC and so-called Nationalists have fought for the allegiance of 20 million overseas Chinese. Born in 1932, Liu fled to Taiwan—where Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) had set up shop—after Mao's forces had overrun the mainland. Trained in the KMT's elite Political Warfare Academy, Liu wangled his way into a journalism career, mastered English, and made it to the US in 1967, settling in Washington, D.C., where he eked out a living as a translator and correspondent for publications in Hong Kong as well as Taipei. Eventually gaining American citizenship, Liu moved to northern California, where he and his wife ran a successful gift shop in San Francisco. A respected man of letters in both Chinas, Liu played both ends against the middle, accepting expense-paid trips to the PRC, serving as an FBI informant, and taking payoffs from the KMT. Dismayed by Liu's lack of devotion to their cause, high-ranking Nationalist intelligence agents recruited hit men from Taiwan's underworld, who assassinated the writer in 1984. Dogged work by local police, who unearthed a taped confession left by one of the killers, led to the solution of the murder. Kaplan does a fine job of explaining and recounting the savagery with which the KMT suppressed dissent throughout the world as well as on its island fortress. He also addresses (without dwelling on) the comparative ease with which the repressive regimes of presumptive American allies like Chile, Iran (under the Shah), the Philippines, and South Korea as well as Taiwan have been able to wage undeclared wars against their ÇmigrÇ enemies in the US. A brilliantly reported, if occasionally repetitive, account of geopolitical rivalry as a blood sport. (Eight-page photo insert— not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-689-12066-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

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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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