In the spirit of Gibbon, Halperin attributes Castro's alleged decay to foreign influence -- Russian Communism -- but this first of two volumes examines only Castro's ""rise"" during his first five years of power, Halperin, who lived in Cuba from 1962 to 1968 and in the USSR for the preceding three years (activities unspecified), is chiefly concerned with charting Castro's efforts to survive the riptide of international politics. He credits him with occasional aplomb but is more often content to score Castro's ""unequivocal, unwavering -- and reckless"" desire for confrontation with the U.S. The ""bold and aggressive"" foreign policy of revolutionary Cuba led by Fidel the Spellbinder explains the failure to overtly respond to Kennedy's diplomatic initiative in 1963, even though Halperin records that Castro was tentatively receptive to Kennedy and indeed might have become the Tito of the hemisphere. It was a skyrocket tour of the Soviet Union that year which sealed Russian trade credits to Cuba. But as this volume ends Fide, l, contrary to Moscow policy, is still trying to aid Latin American revolution. Much is said about Castro's relations with the Cuban Communist Party despite Halperin's failure to understand the latter's history as conscious straw bosses for Batista. On economic questions Halperin fails to flesh out his references to ""Castro's colossal economic blundering."" The issue of subversion in Latin America elicits an attitude of ""We all know about the CIA, let's discuss Castro's plots."" For Fidelologists and collectors of diplomatic scripts the book will have interest, but essentially Halperin adds little to our knowledge of the period, and his interpretation of Soviet influence is less sophisticated than K.S. Karol's in Guerrillas in Power (1970).