An informative and often enthralling book, but it is tough sledding. Readers must pay strict attention lest they get lost in...



An account of the tense relations between the United States and the Soviet Union during Ronald Reagan’s first presidential term.

On Nov. 7, 1983, NATO commenced a five-day military exercise called Able Archer 83. In simulating a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe and a NATO nuclear response, Able Archer scared the Soviet Union into believing that an actual U.S.–led attack was imminent. Thus the Russians readied their nuclear forces and placed military units in Eastern Europe on alert, bringing the two superpowers to the edge of war. Ambinder (co-author: Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, 2013), a former White House correspondent and TV producer, chronicles the road to this near catastrophe. In relating incidents such as Reagan’s “evil empire” speech, the Soviet Union’s shooting down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, and the installation of Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, the author skillfully places the Able Archer exercise within the context of the fraught Cold War atmosphere of the early 1980s. He also persuasively argues that a key to the easing of this tension was Reagan’s belated understanding that Russian distrust was rooted in the fact that, as the president noted in his diary, “many people at the top of the Soviet hierarchy were genuinely afraid of America and Americans.” The book features interviews with government officials and spies who were on the scene, and Ambinder writes in the appealing style of Tom Clancy. Yet he compromises the narrative with short chapters that bounce from place to place and a frustrating tendency to omit dates. Moreover, the author employs an extensive cast of characters and a plethora of acronyms (although he does provide lists for both). The fulcrum of the book—the Able Archer exercise and the Soviet reaction to it—is somewhat anticlimactic.

An informative and often enthralling book, but it is tough sledding. Readers must pay strict attention lest they get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6037-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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