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Posts about reviews (old posts, page 10)

Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Serhii Plokhy

2021


A revisiting of the Cuban missile crisis from more of a Soviet perspective, which is an interesting twist.

It's a view that focuses on the politics in play rather than on the publicly-visible events, and this radically changes the view of what's important. The confrontation at sea, for example, and the famous tussle at the Security Council between Stevenson and Zorin, barely rate mentions. Instead there's consideration of Kennedy's domestic credibility problem in dealing with Krushchev, as well as Krushchev's problem getting out of the situation in which he found himself. It also shows the influence of Fidel Castro, who was far more willing to get into a nuclear war than either of the main protagonists, in spite of the obvious consequences that would have had for Cuba.

4/5. Finished 12 September 2021.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy

Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy

Talia Lavin

2020


Very much a dive into the murk of internet conspiracies and racism: an important book that shines a welcome (if that's the right word) light on how the internet perpetuates and accelerates extremism, and especially how the tropes of past outbreaks (mainly against Jews) re-appear in updated guises time after time.

I think the book would be stronger if it focused more on Lavin's actual experiences in the various fora she explores. Some of the other chapters, while interesting, aren't really about her own journey and so slightly weaken the first-person narrative.

4/5. Finished 11 September 2021.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Diary of a Young Naturalist

Diary of a Young Naturalist

Dara McAnulty

2020


An insightful and moving reflection, as much about a young man's struggles with autism as about the environment. But it also indirectly highlights the strengths of introversion and autism, the ability to perceive the important things and to identify mistakes and charletainry wherever they appear.

3/5. Finished 04 September 2021.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Invasive Aliens: The Plants and Animals from Over There That Are Over Here

Invasive Aliens: The Plants and Animals from Over There That Are Over Here

Dan Eatherley


The story of plants and animals invading the UK, mainly (though not entirely) with human intervention. Full of anecdotes and strange twists as species interact.

It's hard to say whether the overall impact of invasive species is positive or negative. It's remarkable that many species that invade other countries do better there than they did at home, which is a positive for global biodiversity in a sense. I also hadn't realised how deliberate a lot of introductions were, and how two-way they went between Europe and the "New World".

3/5. Finished 01 September 2021.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon

Kim Zetter

2014


A technical whodunit of the first order, rendered surprisingly readable without losing the scientific details.

This is probably as close we we'll ever get to the true story of Stuxnet. It opened up a whole new era of state (and non-state) competition, as well as exposing for all to see the intertwining of military and civilian concerns. What does it mean when a government finds a vulnurability in a computer system that might affect companies worldwide – and then exploits it as an attack vector rather than warning the software vendors and users to secure their systems? How should private security firms behave when they realise that they've found what is effectively collateral digital damage in civilian systems from the poor targeting of a weapon aimed at the institutions of another state?

Every computer scientist will find something of interest here, as well as pointers to things they'll want to dig into more deeply. (In my case, how to reverse-engineer a compiled piece of software that's been written using a non-standard language or compiler.) The wider social concerns are also fascinating, and will be a staple of ethics classes in the years to come.

4/5. Finished 25 August 2021.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)