A can’t-miss for anyone interested in current military affairs.

ON KILLING REMOTELY

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF KILLING WITH DRONES

A penetrating look inside the military units operating armed drones on remote battlefields around the world.

Phelps, a former Marine who served five deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, works from—and expands on—the principles laid out in Dave Grossman’s On Killing (1995), which investigated the intense psychological forces affecting troops involved in lethal action. The author draws heavily on interviews with members of the armed forces who operate remotely piloted aircraft, as drones are officially known. The military has always sought to increase the distance from which it attacks enemy forces, if only as a way to protect its own soldiers. From spears and arrows to artillery, aircraft, and long-range missiles, the distance has grown steadily over time. From that perspective, RPAs are a natural progression. Phelps, who has commanded multiple Unmanned Aircraft System teams, takes pains to contest the flawed perception that using RPAs is equivalent to playing computer games. The warriors who fire their weapons have often spent weeks or months observing their targets, waiting for a time when there is no risk of killing bystanders. They may know more about their targets than their own next-door neighbors, and they see with unusual clarity what happens after they “pull the trigger.” Inevitably, there is an often devastating emotional effect. Add to that the conditions under which they work, often serving long shifts that lead to dangerous sleep deprivation. Nor does their culture encourage them to seek help for the crushing mental stress. Furthermore, even as the number of RPA operators has dramatically increased, they are still treated as less important than “real” pilots or soldiers who are directly exposed to enemy fire. Phelps provides ample quotations from RPA operators as well as detailed reports of their necessary work. Drone warfare is seemingly ubiquitous, and the author delivers a clear report on how it works and how it affects the users.

A can’t-miss for anyone interested in current military affairs.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-62829-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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