RaveThe Financial Times (UK)There have been scores of books, some of them very good, about the Cuban missile crisis and several documentary movies of varying quality. But Nuclear Folly is arguably the most authoritative and cleverly written work on the subject yet produced ... Nuclear Folly is excellent on the main actors in the drama ... For the past half century many hawkish cold war historians have argued that the Cuban crisis was not so serious as neither side wanted war and that in any case it seemed to justify the \'MAD\' — mutually assured destruction — theory that kept humanity going. Plokhy, who is also the author of a brilliant history of Chernobyl, vehemently disagrees. In 1962, he writes, there were two powers who didn’t want war but very nearly had one before they looked for a way to avoid it. Now there are several powers who might see a way of winning a war — or prefer losing a war than losing face.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... entertaining ... a welcome corrective ... The story is vividly told by Carr, who has unearthed some fascinating new archival sources to add to a sparkling narrative ... Carr writes a rollicking spy yarn, but there is no convincing evidence that the one serious attempt on Lenin’s life leads back to Allied intervention. Western spooks talked about murdering Lenin, but it is not clear they did much about it.
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)Sorge’s dramatic story is well-known. Several biographies have been written; a film was made in France. Owen Matthews, though, is the first to use newly available sources in the former USSR, including KGB archives. It is a vividly told story, thoroughly researched and well-crafted ... Ian Fleming called Sorge \'the most formidable spy in history\'; John le Carré thought him \'impeccable\'. But was he? In the big picture he failed. Matthews is good at explaining why. The Germans invaded and more than 20m Russians died in the war. However brilliant and fascinating, Sorge couldn’t find a way to prevent it. He was defeated by a problem spies have faced from the Battle of Actium to modern-day Iraq. Often leaders hear only what they want to hear and act on information they find politically useful to them. As such this is a highly relevant book for today.
PositiveThe TimesThere have been several good books recently about Chernobyl...Brown wants to examine the present and the science around it. Occasionally, there are a few too many becquerels and curies in her narrative, but on the whole she makes her case comprehensible to the general reader ... It is a troubling book, passionately written and deeply researched over 10 years in former Soviet, Ukrainian and Belarusian archives ... What is new in Brown’s book are the assertions she makes about western countries, and how, in an \'unholy alliance\' with the former eastern bloc, they have hidden their contribution to global radiation levels ... The polemic in Brown’s book can, and should, be debated. I need more convincing about a worldwide conspiracy by an elite group of Dr Strangeloves and dodgy scientists. But there is no doubt, despite her occasional descent into cliché, about Brown’s gift for vivid narrative ... What have we learnt from the Chernobyl catastrophe? If Brown is right, not much.
PositiveThe Times (UK)Lieutenant Boris Solovev...devised a plan to rescue Tsar Nicholas II from house arrest in the west Siberian town of Tobolsk. This was just weeks after Lenin’s Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia, and the prospects for the Romanovs were starting to look bleak ... He claimed he had found 300 \'loyal\' soldiers who could overcome the guards in the mansion where the tsar and his family were imprisoned. Then, in freezing midwinter, he would escort his royal charges 1,300 miles through a chaotic Russia, where civil war had erupted, to Murmansk. There, a ship or submarine would take them to a country willing to give them asylum. All he needed was the money ... Around 175,000 gold rubles were found from the tsar and friends (around £2.1m today) and handed to Solovev. The money was never seen again, nor were the 300 soldiers or a ship, let alone a submarine or a rescue plan ... For nearly 100 years rumours have abounded about myriad so-called plots to free the tsar. As Rappaport shows, \'the truth behind the secret plans to rescue\'.
RaveThe Sunday TimesThe Ukrainian-born Plokhy — now a Harvard history professor — was a student living less than 300 miles from the site in 1986 and this book has a strong personal angle. Using new archive material, it is also a work of deep scholarship and powerful storytelling. Plokhy is a master of the telling detail ... Plokhy’s description of brave men with no protection walking on what was left of the burning reactor hall is horrifying ... Plokhy is convinced there will be more Chernobyls. Despite headlines about nuclear weapons in North Korea or Iran, the greater danger to the world, he insists, is from nuclear energy in developing countries, where most of the reactors are being built and where ambitious dictators will be prepared to cut corners in pursuit of economic growth and relatively cheap energy. It’s a ghastly prognosis, and even if not entirely persuasive, so well argued that it is highly plausible.