Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bookworming: Blind Man's Bluff

Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage, Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew, ****
Once upon a time, long before Edward Snowden revealed some facets of the extents to which the U.S. intelligence agencies would go to collect said intelligence, there was a forty-plus year period of tension between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. known as the Cold War. This book contains tales of espionage and surveillance missions undertaken by Navy submarines during that time. There are stories of great courage, extreme danger, illegal activity, bureaucratic incompetence, and the general Cold War paranoia caused by the thankfully-now-inconceivable threat of nuclear war. The book generally tells its stories well. The primary exception is one long chunk of investigative work concerning what could have happened to a particular submarine lost at sea. Unfortunately, though the book leads you to believe one version of events, there is no actual proof on hand, undercutting the too-long section describing the theories.

I actually read this once before, a long time ago. At the time I was very into techno-thrillers, and this book is not unlike those, except these things actually happened. Back then I found it fascinating, if a little slow. Reading it now, I see quite a few more layers. The sacrifices of the men on those boats and those they left behind on the shore. The lies and secrecy that protected the "special projects" programs even from other parts of the government. The book has examples of the human dedication that it took to win the Cold War, and it has examples of the human stupidity that lead to it happening in the first place. And for that, I think I can recommend it to anyone.

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