A military version of Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine (1981)—with, much higher casualties, of course.



An inside view of the difficult birth of a tactical vehicle that, at least for a time, was a defense contractor’s dream and a politician’s terror.

Dallas Morning News Pentagon correspondent Whittle has been tracking the story of the V-22 Osprey, a “tiltrotor” aircraft—“called that because it tilts two giant rotors on its wingtips upward to take off and land and swivels them forward to fly fast”—since the machine first hit the planning table. Developed at the cost of many Marine lives, victims of numerous crashes during the testing phase, the Osprey program was, by 2000, billions of dollars over budget and nearly a decade behind schedule. Worse, one Marine commander was alleged to have told the technicians under his command to lie about the myriad mechanical problems that emerged in its experimental stages. Bound up in a web of deception, politics and the full weight of the military-industrial complex, the Osprey’s debut in the Iraq War more than 25 years after the program’s initiation, by the author’s view, was entirely appropriate—the two fit each other as “a project sold for a mission one deemed existential, a venture begun under the influence of a dream that soon became a nightmare.” Yet, for all its problems and despite considerable odds, including some conniving by rival helicopter manufacturers and entanglements with the ever-combative Dick Cheney, the high command saw the Osprey as essential to the survival of the Marine Corps, which, given the paucity of opportunities for seaborne invasions of distant shores, found its ability to insert fighters quickly and deeply into enemy territory irresistible. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with key players, including frontline soldiers and contractors at all levels of operation, Whittle skillfully depicts the evolution of the aircraft from drawing board to reality.

A military version of Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine (1981)—with, much higher casualties, of course.

Pub Date: April 27, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6295-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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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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