Monday, October 10, 2016

The Rise of ISIS

Black Flags: The Rise of ISISBlack Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OH! ISIS! I thought they were saying Icees, as in...


Well, now that I'm up to speed on radical Islamic terrorism, who wants to invite me over to their bbq, so I can be the life of the party? Cuz nothing says FUN like bringing up politics and religion at a social gathering! Just look how enjoyable Facebook is these days.

All silliness aside, Black Flags is a solid way to understand how ISIS came to be. A good number of pages are also spent on Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, but the real focus is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the thug turned religious zealot and leader of a violent fundamentalist movement.

Joby Warrick gives the reader plenty of details on Zarqawi's past and what made him who he eventually became. It's not an in-depth character study that a psychologist could publish a paper on, but I certainly know the man much better now than I ever have.

But do I know the real story? I mean, what's Warrick's bias? He's certainly not kind to the Bush administration's handling of terrorism for most of this book and seems to side more with the CIA. And what does Warrick know? He worked for the Washington Post and as far as journalists go he seems to be the one most well-connected to what happened after 9/11. However, even the most well-connected journalist generally isn't going to have intel on the government's secrets and what went on behind the scenes.

As an average-joe-know-nothing, us readers will just have to be satisfied with what we can glean from folks like Warrick. That's not a terrible problem, because this was an enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to moving on to Warrick's next book The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA.

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The Ghost of Oscar Wilde

The Canterville GhostThe Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Almost witless. By which I mean this is nearly free of wit.

That's a problem for Oscar Wilde, a writer whose career was based on his rapier wit. But I'm sorry fans, I just don't see it in The Canterville Ghost.

In this story we have your typical set up where Americans come to the UK, buy up a castle, ghost-included, and then proceed to dash away hundreds of years of well-cultivated English tedium. (And I like their tedium, so that was a drag...)

Wilde's commentary on stuffy Brits and cocky Americans is broad and soon played out. All that's left is a sappy love story.

Well, that and a ghost story that's used for some good comic effect. The only problem with this part of the story is that recently it's been done a bajillion times. That's no fault of Wilde's, mind you! I don't blame him. But the fact it, these days the old put-one-over-on-the-scary-ghost bit has been done ad nauseam. If only we'd all read this book before being inundated by recent tv and movies...

Still and all, this is an Oscar Wilde book and as such it's still good reading even with all of its faults. Yes, I've bashed it good here, but look up there at those shiny three stars. That's a solid thumbs-tepidly-up if I ever saw one!

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