November 6, 2010

Book Review: Relentless Pursuit

Title:  Relentless Pursuit: The DSS and the Manhunt for the Al-Queda Terrorists
Author: Samuel M. Katz
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
Pages: 297
Genre: Intelligence Non-Fiction
Related Books: Jawbreaker by Gary Berntsen

On February 26, 1993, an Econoline Van filled with 1,500 pounds of homemade fertilizer based explosive urea nitrate was parked in the basement of the World Trade Center Tower One.  Strategically positioned next to a support beam, the blasts intention was to topple Tower One into Tower Two, killing tens of thousands.  Underestimating the structural strength of the building, the explosion carved a crater 150 feet in diameter and 50 feet deep killing six, but terrorizing millions.

Relentless Pursuit chronicles the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) manhunt for al-Queda terrorists.  From the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 to the notorious and fateful day in September 2001, the book follows various Special Agents offering worldwide security and investigations in areas touched by the menace and murder of al-Queda.  From New York City to the Philippines to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Sudan, Afghanistan, Islamabad, Beirut, Tanzania and back to New York City, bombings, assassinations and the subsequent investigations are detailed in this book.

There are a lot of individuals presented , good and bad, some reappear throughout the book, others are mentioned once or twice.  Each bombing could provide enough information to warrant its own book.  The setting changes quickly.  The book becomes heavy with the large amounts of information.  Also, the book could use another round of editing.  However, this book wasn't released for its literary prowess, but instead to provide information.  It is an excellent source of knowledge into the minds and actions of an organization that does not easily forget; holding revenge and hatred in very high esteem.  Al-Queda still uses the Crusades as a rallying cry.  In the United States, our memory span is very short.  Who remembers the details of the WTC bomb from 1993?  These are not things that we should forget.

November 1, 2010

Book Review: Atlas Shrugged

Title: Atlas Shrugged (1957)
Author: Ayn Rand
Publisher: Plume (1999)
Pages: 1168
Genre: Philosophical fiction

Atlas Shrugged is the philosophy of Objectivism argued in the form of a fiction novel. Objectivism is the doctrine that reality exists separate from consciousness. Reality is that which we can sense. We can sense our creation of an object, but we cannot sense the idea of creation. It is not real until it is created and when created, it is ours. The philosophy is a strong proponent of capitalism, private property and minimal outward influence from regulations and rules. Man can only truly live life through the means of action and the fruition of his interests and skills.

Storyline: Men of action are disappearing from the country. Men of inaction are gaining control of the government and creating regulations which limit freedom of business. When the population recognizes that those with ability are taxed and those with need are pampered, the cities, infrastructure and lives of a once great nation crumbles at its core; spiraling into destruction without the freedom of competition. The men of ability create a retreat in which they may exist as they know man must live.

Creating a fictional world to portray a philosophy that is supposed to apply to our complex and real world is not very convincing. The antagonists are extremely shallow and stupid, performing their role of supporting Objectivism as if it were scripted. The book is overly long and repetitive. The countless dialogues between good guy and bad guy is almost always a repeat of the first dialogue between good guy and bad guy. The exchange of speech is good argument verses nonsensical repeating of meaningless phrases. Ignoring human nature and God except where it supports the agenda, this is a frail attempt to support a philosophy that has respectable and strong ideas.