An amusing addition to the rare genre of submariner memoirs.

UNDER PRESSURE

LIVING LIFE AND AVOIDING DEATH ON A NUCLEAR SUBMARINE

Life aboard a Polaris missile submarine, a serious business most of the time.

The son of working-class British parents, Humphreys was bright enough to win a scholarship, but the experience of an English public school convinced him that a life of adventure trumped education. After an unsuccessful attempt at professional soccer and rejection from the French Foreign Legion at age 17, he joined the Royal Navy in 1985. Britain’s fleets no longer ruled the sea, but the country did possess four Polaris missile–firing nuclear submarines. Before beginning five years of service, Humphreys experienced basic training, which “is pretty consistent across the armed forces,” involving ceremony, interminable drills, draconian inspections, and staff dedicated “to making your life a misery.” Being fit and a veteran of public school bullying, he made it through mostly unscathed, and he delivers much wry commentary. Moving on, Humphreys delivers a vivid description of a profession that requires technical skill, obsessive multitasking (men routinely perform several jobs), and absolute absence of claustrophobia: He explains the unique experience of living in cramped quarters with 143 men breathing the same stale air during three month patrols away from sunlight and family. To avoid detection, missile submarines never “transmit sonically.” The author reminds readers that the Cold War hadn’t yet ended, and no one doubted that an order to fire missiles meant Armageddon. For the most part, readers will enjoy an expert account of nuclear submarine technology, operation, command structure, and culture. Regarding the last, the author describes how smoking was permitted, as was drinking to excess—although that was curbed after an intoxicated sailor murdered his captain in 2011. The humor often centers on bad smells and the overworked toilets. The author also includes a helpful diagram of the sub, an officer hierarchy, and a glossary.

An amusing addition to the rare genre of submariner memoirs. (b/w photos)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-99624-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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