BLOWOUT by Rachel Maddow
Kirkus Star


Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth
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Maddow (Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, 2012) examines the disconcertingly disproportionate influence of big oil on world affairs.

The author may be a popular, progressive news-and-commentary anchor on MSNBC, but it’s not to be forgotten that she holds a doctorate in politics from Oxford and seems to devour whole libraries of data before breakfast each day. In her second book, she takes on the oil oligarchy, beginning with, fittingly, an opening: the first of a Russian-owned chain of gas stations in New York City in 2003, its celebrity highlight Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Sen. Chuck Schumer. Putin had not been in power long, though long enough that the U.S. ambassador to Russia “had already warned of the risk that [he] would evolve into an autocrat who monopolized control of government and the economy behind the window dressing of democratic institutions.” From there, Maddow goes on to develop a densely argued exercise in connecting dots: A corrupt Russia—one in which, for example, the builders of the Olympic Village in Sochi skimmed off upward of $30 billion—hitched its wagon to a moribund petro-economy, one that could not survive with the sanctions imposed on it by the Obama administration. This set in motion the whole chain of events now playing out, including Russian tampering in the 2016 election and the not-coincidental haste of the Trump administration to lift those sanctions the moment it entered power. There are many stops along the way. Maddow looks, for example, at the seismic effects of fracking in Oklahoma, a petroleum-extraction technology that, as one voter remarked, afforded “an issue that will turn a red state blue.” Updating Daniel Yergin’s The Prize with three decades’ worth of material, Maddow concludes that big oil can and will do nothing to regulate itself and argues that “containment is the small-c conservative answer” to the problem of “the industry’s reliance on corruption and capture."

Expect a tweetstorm as Maddow’s indictment of a corrupt industry finds readers—and it deserves many.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-525-57547-4
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2019