Reviews

Rehabilitating the Truth

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Review of 'Vietnam and Other American Fantasies', H Bruce Franklin, University of Massachusetts Press £15.95

Over the Xmas of 1972, with an agreement between North Vietnam and the US imminent, Richard Nixon ordered an all-out aerial assault on the North, with B-52s flying over 700 sorties in 12 days. The response to this stepping up of the war was a strike by those working at the secret 6990th air force security service base on Okinawa. The strikers cheered every time news came through that a B-52 had been shot down. At the same time four aircraft carriers, Ranger, Forrestal, Coral Sea and Kitty Hawk, were incapacitated by sabotage and mutiny, unable to play their part in the bombardment.

Watching the Detective

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Review of 'The Angst-Ridden Executive', Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Serpent's Tail £6.99

One of Europe's best known writers, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán was born in Barcelona in 1939, the year of Franco's civil war victory. He became an underground activist when he was a 20 year old student. Arrested in 1962, he was beaten up by the notorious torturer, police inspector Vicente Creix, and spent 18 months for political offences in Lérida jail. Throughout his successful literary career he has remained faithful to the PSUC, the Catalan Communist Party, which he joined while in prison.

Stars in their Eyes

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Review of 'Cosmology', Peter Coles, Oxford £5.99

This pocket size book starts with a history of how humanity came to terms with the universe and its creation, and then seeks to explain the modern understanding. On its way it covers Einstein's theories of relativity, how we know the age and size of the universe, the process of the Big Bang, and how the matter we see around us was created. In the latter stages it describes the structure of the cosmos in terms of galaxies and clusters, and ponders on matters such as whether a grand unified theory of everything can be created.

A People's History

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Review of 'Communist Lives', eds. John McIlroy, Kevin Morgan, Alan Campbell, Lawrence and Wishart £19.99

At a time when biography is expanding greatly in the book world, the near absence of biographies of Communist leaders in Britain is noticeable. The purpose of this book is to redress the balance--different authors have written the biographies of leading Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) figures around the first half of the last century. The different authors of the biographies seek to show that even within the tight confines of the monolithic party the individual loyal Communists proved to be different from one another in many ways.

Sizing Up the Opposition

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Review of 'Stupid White Men', Michael Moore, Harper Collins £18.99

This book almost didn't make the shops. It was being printed when the planes crashed into the World Trade Centre. Any criticism of the US and the people who run it, the 'stupid white men' like Bush and Cheney, was deemed unpatriotic and unacceptable. So the publisher, Harper Collins (which is owned by Murdoch), refused to release the books for sale and at one point said it was going to pulp the 50,000 copies that had been printed.

Bursting the Dam of Dissent

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Review of 'Power Politics', Arundhati Roy, South End Press £7.99

'To be a writer--supposedly a famous writer--in a country where 300 million people are illiterate is a dubious honour,' writes Arundhati Roy in this latest collection of her essays. Roy's way of addressing this contradiction has been to use her fame to give a voice to those who feel they have no power. She has obviously been effective, for she faced a prison sentence this year for standing up to the Indian High Court which had allowed a massive dam project to go ahead that will mean 25 million people losing their homes and livelihoods.

Riding the Crest of a Wave

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Review of 'The Scar', China Miéville, Macmillan £17.99

Fantasy is one of the most popular forms of fiction today. A visit to any bookshop will reveal row after row of fantasy novels, mostly adventure stories but with a growing comedy section as well (mostly written by Terry Pratchett). The great bulk of these novels are set in some sort of romanticised feudal society where good is battling against evil, the lower classes know their place and magic works. There are elves, dwarves, trolls, dragons, princes and princesses, wizards and, inevitably, those most maligned of fictional creatures, orcs, the despised proletariat of conservative fantasy.

Toxic Shock

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Review of 'Five Past Midnight in Bhopal', Dominique Lapierre, Simon and Schuster £17.99

The tragedy of a toxic leak from Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal, India resulted in the worst industrial disaster in history, causing over 30,000 deaths and 50,000 injuries, and is felt almost 20 years after 'the event'. It was a request for help setting up a clinic that prompted Dominique Lapienne to spend three years searching for the truth behind the leak.

The Common Cause

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Review of 'The Wearing of the Green', Michael Herbert, IBRG £11.95

Over the last two centuries Irish people living in Britain have contributed to many campaigns and protest movements. But those few historians who have told their story, have most often written out this fighting past. Mike Herbert's history is the first full length account to give this radical history due weight.

Herbert does not just tell the story of the Manchester Irish, but locates their narrative within the linked stories of the movements for Irish independence, and of British working class history.

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