Shaken readers may recite the Twenty-fourth Psalm each page. Anyone for the Apocalypse?

ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE CASSANDRA COMPACT

Like Fellini’s Roma, the jacket cover here says Robert Ludlum’s The Cassandra Compact—a device we hope doesn’t catch on. Clean-prosist and coauthor Shelby wrote Days of Drums (1996).

Ludlum now hops between Covert-One original trade paperbacks bounced out with way-second-billed coauthors (The Hades Factor, with Gayle Lynds, 2000) and hardcovers written solo (The Prometheus Deception, 2000). Covert-One is the president’s personal, supersecret intelligence group unknown even to CIA, NSA, the Secret Service, or Pentagon. Bowing in as Ludlum & Co.’s fresh new hero in Hades was Colonel Jon Smith, Army doctor and virologist, and his beloved Dr. Sophia Russell, molecular biologist, who died during the outbreak of a new virus that might have wiped out mankind. Cassandra picks up Smith a year later, burying a diamond ring under Sophia’s gravestone, where he meets Dr. Megan Olson, a biochemist who has switched from jobs with the NIH and WHO to being the first alternate on the next space-shuttle mission. Will she be his new love, or will it be Sophia’s sister in Moscow, Randi Russell, who may be CIA? The twist this time is smallpox. The virus has been wiped out, but both the US and Russia keep small quantities to work with if needed. The villain is a nut who wants the Russian sample. But smallpox is too slow-acting for bio-warfare, though up in the microgravity of space, whoosh! its speed and growth turn horrendous—if only he could get the sample up to the space lab. No sooner does Smith get word that the Russian sample has gone astray than pow! it’s blastoff into Ludlumland with bodies dropping in fiery fusillades. Even teams of assassins aren’t safe, being killed off by their own bosses. And when the bugs make it into outer space, mankind faces the big chill.

Shaken readers may recite the Twenty-fourth Psalm each page. Anyone for the Apocalypse?

Pub Date: May 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26343-5

Page Count: 356

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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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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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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