MixedThe BafflerA large chunk of the book covers Snowden’s careful accumulation of documents and his preparatory efforts to contact sympathetic journalists. This section is at times thrilling and mournful, as Snowden, operating in total secrecy, even from his girlfriend, knows his life will be irrevocably altered ... It’s hard at times to reconcile this Snowden with one who supports the continued existence of seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies, but this dissonance marks much liberal-left thought about the IC and U.S. foreign policy. Despite being deeply literate, he doesn’t seem to consider the historical role of the IC as an enforcer of American empire and a tool for repression of domestic dissidents.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"... a doorstop of a book, an intensively researched, engagingly written chronicle of surveillance capitalism’s origins and its deleterious prospects for our society ... [The book\'s contents] may sound a little heady, like perhaps an overseasoned stew of po-mo economic jargon, but Zuboff will have you asking for another helping long before the book’s end ... Zuboff’s capacious book has room for minority opinions and other forms of dissent. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism may lack a straightforward political program — Zuboff comes across as a liberal, albeit not one who slots neatly on the left-right axis — but it is loaded with useful economic, technological and anthropological analysis ... orks of technology criticism are often expected to provide a few hundred pages of doomsaying before providing a concise final chapter in which the Gordian knot of our problems is neatly and improbably cut. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, with its near-700-page footprint, is thankfully not that kind of book.\
PositiveBookslutIf Daniyal Mueenuddin is better at telling the stories of the desperate, the poor, and the failing, it is in part because there is a richness and vitality to Pakistan's disorder that the author manages to harness without fetishizing. And for a book with obvious social concerns, these are the tales that need to be told. He manages to do that here with excellent detail (in one of many marvelous descriptions, a man is called ‘gentle in a bovine sort of way’), humor, fine characterization, and a brutal honesty that eschews cheap comforts. His stories of the decadent, collapsing old aristocracy are also excellent, but that may be because, in some way, they belong to that aforementioned group, those who are failing, even if they are not aware of their own corruption and even if their servants would do almost anything to be in their place.
Antonio Muñoz Molina
MixedThe New RepublicThere seems to be an inherent tension between the kind of historical detail that Molina accumulates and the ability to understand a character’s motivations. I finished the book feeling that I had come to understand the author himself (or at least his fictionalized counterpart) far better than his subject ... It’s a book about its own creation that lays bare the mechanics of fiction, questioning whether they work at all while simultaneously arguing for the importance of fictionalizing history ... he secondary details here threaten to become the main event, and Molina risks exhausting readers with extensive reportage of what Ray ate, who he met, and where he went ... Like a Fading Shadow might be seen as a mongrel kind of auto-fiction (lately in style through writers like Karl Ove Knausgaard). Through frequent info-dumps and editorializing on the nature of the novel, Molina seems to be trying to construct a novel that writes itself, drawing on the raw materials of history and of the author’s own life ... with its compulsive regurgitation of facts and its awkward mix of memoir, history, and fiction, has a wayward feel to it, as if the author got lost in the thicket of his own investigation.
PositiveThe New RepublicSaddam’s literary side is often overlooked — an understandable omission when discussing someone responsible for horrific massacres — but it speaks to his divided character …After he was captured, Saddam frequently requested reading and writing materials. ‘You must understand, I am a writer,’ he told John Nixon, a CIA interrogator whose book, Debriefing the President, was published last year … Saddam saw himself as a fearsome, benevolent sovereign, a cultured and far-sighted man, despite having left his native country only twice and repeatedly plunging his people into disastrous wars … He thought that the country needed him and that the insurgency was a natural result of his removal from power. You’ll miss me soon enough, he told his interrogators. Here he’s in agreement with some American analysts, including Nixon, the former CIA officer. Nixon came to see Saddam as a brutal but clever operator who, through manipulation and fear, maintained unity in his fractious country.
MixedBookforum'Taste is social comparison,' Tom Vanderbilt says in his new book, You May Also Like. He goes on to add — via the great French sociologist of the subject, Pierre Bourdieu — that 'taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier' ...the book at times takes a positivist turn, finding too much truth in simple statistics ...filled with clever asides about the bands he once adored and choice quotations from his favorite philosophers ... A stylish writer, he’s particularly good at navigating the shoals of digital opinion and the various techniques of information management employed by savvy consumers ...resists Gladwellian grand theories and Lehrerian oversimplification. At the same time, many of the scientific experts Vanderbilt consults bring insights that provoke little more than some appreciative chin-scratching ...Vanderbilt displays a consistent interpretive outlook of humble curiosity.