Sunday Book Reviews – 8/26/18

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Wilderness of Mirrors by David C. Martin (1980, Harper & Row)

This is an exhaustively researched history of the conflicts between the KGB and the CIA and MI6 during the 1950s and 1960s, with an eye toward double and triple agents.

Anyone unfamiliar with the history of Kim Philby will learn the details of his deep betrayal of the Western countries, and those already familiar with the story of his defection will learn what was verified through evidence and what was common, if inaccurate, knowledge.

Far more than just a recounting of the Philby case, however, Wilderness of Mirrors uses the facts of that event as a springboard to detail the events that followed as the Western agencies worked to root out the double agents within their midst.  The reader is exposed to the personalities of the people working at cleaning up internal affairs and provided with details of less famous cases of active espionage from the Soviets.

Part studious work, part historical analysis, it is a fascinating book for people with enough time to read carefully and an interest in the efforts to discover double agents.


The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold (1990, Baen Books)

Lois McMaster Bujold’s tales of Miles Vorkosigan became multiple Hugo award winners in the 1990s because of her ability to combine military science fiction, personal drama, and political intrigue within the span of and interesting story.

Much as did Frank Herbert, she created a world that gripped her readers.  Unlike Paul, though, Miles is physically stunted and has been forced to rely on his wits to stay alive.  By providing limits for Miles, Bujold is able to place more emphasis on the political machinations and tactical choices he makes as he progresses through the life of a noble in a warrior society.

Her books flow naturally together, especially early in the series, but they succeed as individual efforts.  The concern about stepping into the middle of a series should be brushed aside for at least the first four books, intentionally arranged to be open to new readers.

On top of everything else, a personal aside:

My first experience with Mrs. Bujold came at a convention in 1990 where she walked up to me in the hall with a delighted smile and asked me to buy one of the armful of paperbacks she was carrying.  “I just won the Hugo again with that one!” she told me as I flipped through one.

That’s the equivalent of Jack Nicholson walking around a mall with a goofy grin, asking people to go see his new movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.  It just isn’t done.  She did it anyway, because she’s a born storyteller and she wanted people to read her stories.  The books reflect that.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.