Not a biography, but a subjective military history of the 194575 Indochina wars, in which the British author argues that the Vietnamese victories were primarily due to French and American mistakes rather than the superior leadership of the commanding Vietnamese general, Vo Nguyen Giap. Colvin, who was British consul in Hanoi from 1965 to 1967, presents a wealth of battlefield detail about the French and American wars in Vietnam. He describes many battles and skirmishes, and thoroughly examines tactical and strategic details. The military history is generally accurate, although Colvin makes the grossly untrue statement that the US Army and Air Force in Vietnam ``lived in air-conditioned bases.'' Along with the facts, Colvin includes his opinions, arguing, for example, that the US could have stopped a communist victory in Vietnam by mining the northern ports and letting loose an ``aerial interdiction'' on northern borders in 1965 to prevent war materiel from entering North Vietnam. Colvin characterizes Gen. Giap and North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh as ruthless if brilliant men who depended on the calculated use of ``terror and patriotism'' to propel the war effort. Giap, Colvin says, was an overrated commander who was victorious because of his willingness to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives and because of the large-scale support he received from China and the Soviet Union. Colvin criticizes some aspects of French colonialism but credits the French with having ``great virtues'' in colonial Vietnam, such as building ``small but lovely cities.'' Colvin condemns the American war strategies of attrition and Vietnamization. Most startlingly, Colvin attributes the communist victory in part to the actions of some elements of the American antiwar movement. A ``revisionist war crimes tribunal today,'' Colvin says, ``would have no difficulty in naming the accused: Jane Fonda, Eldridge Cleaver, and the rest of them.'' A battlefield history is marred by unsupported historical speculations and opinions.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 1996

ISBN: 1-56947-053-7

Page Count: 315

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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