Reviewer Richard Bunning: Richard is an author of books ranging from speculative fiction, (SF), to adaptations of neoclassical plays. He is a national of the UK and NZ and lives in Switzerland. He is active on Twitter, @RichardBunning, often as an indie writers’ advocate. Richard reviews here because he knows the importance to both authors and readers of finding independent opinions. You can find more information about Richard by clicking on his WEBSITE
Author: John D. Steinbruner
Author: John D. Steinbruner
This is a book with a plausible thesis, and very believable script. However, as a novel, as entertainment, it is for me a little over-touched by academic plot. I felt it underplaying my requirement for escapism. The landscape was just too dry to draw me in.
We get what is probably an accurate glimpse into the activities of the sorts of people that influence the functioning of executive state. We look at the manipulators behind the guns rather than at the foot-soldiers and the cadres that act out the plan. We are with the executive controllers and their Svengalis’. But alas we need to get more of a feel for the characters, to feel more of the execution on this roller-coaster of intrigue.
There are light moments in this game of chess, a game in which we are meant to try to ascertain the colour of many of the pieces. However, this book needs a depth of concentration that is perhaps more familiar to readers of academic thesis than fiction. One of the strongest players is the main character’s dog. I was grateful for his inclusion. There are other light moments, even ones of almost reckless if not unplanned passion, which strangely seemed to revolve around every mention of food. But unfortunately by the time the spaghetti had been left to go cold I was beginning to realise that the plot had congealed in my mind.
This really is a thinker’s book, one for the chess player, for the reader with a memory for detail, for the one that enjoys trying to keep complexity revealed. I was grateful for the list of actors in order of appearance. The plot is serious, and should stand as a clear reminder that the truth is rarely what it seems. We see that in any conflict both sides can play dirty; both sides using the same assets in different ways. Did this castle or that knight fall as deliberate sacrifice, or through imperfect movement? As in chess the pawns on your side are often defending your enemy better than they are helping you. I am sure the plot is superb, but the track is barren. There is plenty of John le Carré but no George Smiley, no fully-fleshed Mata Hari. The thesis is first class, but the drama sadly lacking.
I felt that I was reading a carefully substituted plot from a real case, filled with disguised real characters. Perhaps this would have worked better for me if I had a grasp of what the mirrored plot might have been. I didn’t, and I will have to stand as the fool if I am one of a very few that miss it. I even started to wonder if the book itself was a secret message, a coded time-line for action, a call to arms. Was I just the disengaged child asleep at the back of the lecture hall, when everyone else was hanging on every clever word, or are most readers going to be left craving for a little more action between the well planned moves? I suspect this book deserves a lot more reviews before any fair conclusion can be drawn. In fairness to Steinbruner, I feel bound to say that I am possibly just too shallow a reader to gain much benefit from this particular game theory.>
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