MBS is the untold story of how a mysterious young prince emerged from Saudi Arabia’s sprawling royal family to overhaul the economy and society of the richest country in the Middle East—and gather as much power as possible into his own hands.
Ben Hubbard’s account of the life, machiavellian style and ambitions of the de facto ruler of the largest and wealthiest country in the Gulf is a fine example of talented and dogged reporting ... Overall, this is an impressively well-sourced work. There is a fascinating account of Barack Obama confronting him (though he continued US arms sales despite the war in Yemen) and an insightful description of relations between the crown prince and Jared Kushner ... Another riveting chapter is devoted to the three-week tour of the US by the crown prince in the spring of 2018 ... It would be surprising if the crown prince came out much better in later drafts of history than this impressive first one.
...[a] detailed and disturbing portrait ... [a] clear and convincing narrative ... While there are no big news revelations in MBS the book’s strength is the thoroughness of its reporting. Hubbard interviewed contacts inside the kingdom until the Saudis stopped giving him visas in 2018. Many of those he talked to chose to remain anonymous, fearing retaliation. Those he cites by name are very brave, or else as arrogant and unrepentant as M.B.S. himself ... Hubbard acknowledges that much of what M.B.S. has done for his country and its people, especially its young people, has been as admirable as it is overdue, but in this age of incipient tyrants he also understands that authoritarian rulers can be tremendously popular even when they are terribly feared ... Woven through Hubbard’s recounting of these events is the story of Khashoggi, his exile from Saudi Arabia, and his gruesome murder. It’s a narrative whose tragic end many readers will know in advance. But Hubbard does a brilliant job helping us understand Khashoggi the man as well as the operation that killed him.
... a biography with no startling revelations about the life of its subject. Yet it is a revelatory work nonetheless ... While it may not chart the inner growth of a future leader, it paints a vivid portrait of how he has altered the kingdom during his half-decade of rule.