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Book Review – Next Stop Execution: The Autobiography of Oleg Gordievsky

I decided to take a break from monster hunters, zombies, and hover tanks and picked up Next Stop Execution: The Autobiography of Oleg Gordievsky.

Oleg Gordievsky was the highest ranking KGB officer ever to work for Britain.

For eleven years, from 1974 to 1985, he acted as a secret agent, reporting to the British Secret Intelligence Service while continuing to work as a KGB officer, first in Copenhagen, then in London.

He provided Western security organizations with such a clear insight into the mind and methods of the KGB and the larger Soviet government that he has been credited with doing more than any other individual in the West to accelerate the collapse of Communism.

In this thrilling memoir, Gordievsky lays out his extraordinary, meticulously planned escape from Russia, a story that has been described as ‘one of the boldest and most extraordinary episodes in the history of spying.’ (Ben Macintyre – The Times)

Peopled with bizarre, dangerous and corrupt characters, Gordievsky introduces the reader to the fantastical world of the Soviet Embassy, tells of the British MPs and trade unionists who helped and took money from the KGB, and reveals at last what the author told Margaret Thatcher and other world leaders which made him of such value to the West.

Gordievsky’s autobiography gives a fascinating account of life as a secret agent. It also paints the most graphic picture yet of the paranoid incompetence, alongside the ruthless determination, of the all-encompassing and sometimes ridiculous KGB.

Next Stop Execution tells the life story of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB agent who should have been the idyllic Soviet man.  Instead, through exposure to both Western ideals and witnessing such Communist brutality as the raising of the Berlin Wall, he began to work toward the ruin and eventual downfall of the Soviet state.

Gordievsky’s descriptions and narrative are detailed, if a little dry at times.  However, his ability to draw exquisite pictures of the people he worked with, for, and against brings his story to life.  In addition, his description of life under Soviet oppression acts as a stark backdrop to these characters.  This isn’t an action story by any means, but it proceeds with a tension that breaks only in the aftermath of his escape from the Soviet Union.

Next Stop Execution is a must-read for history buffs who want to learn a little more about the shadowy side of the late Cold War.

100 Years On – Armistice

Negotiations that led to the end of hostilities on the Western Front began after the German military began to melt away in the face of Allied advances, as well as the abdication of both the German and Austro-Hungarian emperors.  Beginning on November 8, 1918, German representatives attempted, but failed, to soften the harsh demands the Allied Powers presented them.

After only minor changes, the armistice was signed at 5 AM on November 11, 1918.  It took effect at 11 AM that morning, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  German forces soon began the final evacuation of their remaining forces in Belgium and France.  Other terms of the armistice agreement included the occupation of the Rheinland, surrender of naval, ground, and air forces, and the continuation of the blockade of Germany.

Later, a myth that the German Army was not defeated in the field, and had been “stabbed in the back” by the civilian government became popular. This, however, was belied by the fall of the Hindenberg Line and general retreat of German forces in the face of the 100 Days Offensive.  It is possible, maybe even likely, that the German Army would have rallied had it been pushed back across the Rhein. But the inability of the German economy to sustain its armed forces, much less replace what it was abandoning on the field, would have made even that a desperate, and likely short-lived, reprieve from total collapse.

As the guns finally fell silent across Europe, Asia, and Africa and the last man died, the world could count the war’s cost.

 

Musings

  • My day started with me cooking up 8 pounds of bacon, then baking both banana and cranberry bread, and is ending with me sitting in front of a nice, hot fire.
    • All of the bacon was eaten by a horde of Cub Scouts. The accompanying pancakes were also devoured.
  • If you’re going to give Cub Scouts crap for asking that you consider leaving a food donation out next weekend, please take a few moments to examine your soul and upbringing.
    • Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with just saying “No, thank you.”
  • The maple trees have finished dropping their leaves.  Now comes the time of The Rakening.

100 Years On – Abdication

On November 9, 1918, Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert von Hohenzollern, King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany, abdicated his throne and ended monarchy in Germany.  Over the course of the war, the increased influence of the military, especially that of Ludendorf and Hindenburg, atrophied the power of the Kaiser.

Eventually, as revolution raged in the streets of Berlin and other German cities, Kaiser Wilhelm II was informed that the army would not fight to keep him on the throne.  His abdication was quickly followed by the creation of a republic in Germany.  Wilhelm lived out his days in exile.

Wilhelm had been a bombastic keystone in the arch of monarchy that stretched over pre-war Europe.  Many, including me, place at least partial blame for the initiation of the to his belicose support of Austria-Hungary during the crisis of 1914.

The Great War ended soon after the departure of Wilhelm from the stage.  The republic that replaced him was ill-fated, and it was replaced in its turn by an even worse dictatorship.

 

 

Book Review – Galaxy’s Edge: Retribution

Jason Anspach and Nick Cole have completed what they’re calling “Season 1” of their Galaxy’s Edge series.  The 9th book in the series is “Retribution“.

VICTORY is at hand.

With the galaxy in tatters, Chhun and Wraith lead Kill Team Victory and the remnants of the Legion in a clandestine final effort to bring about Article Nineteen. It’s needed now more than ever as the Republic’s new emperor, Goth Sullus, grows increasingly enigmatic and tyrannical in his rule, leaving some to question their roles in bringing the mysterious leader of the Black Fleet to power.

Meanwhile, a dark traveler finds Prisma Maydoon at the sanctuary of Mother Ree, and bids her to depart from the path of the Ancients.

Experience the exciting conclusion of Galaxy’s Edge Season One, as a desperate, daring raid on Utopion itself leaves Kill Team Victory torn between duty to the Legion and the need to make those responsible for its demise finally pay!

I usually burn through Galaxy’s Edge books in one sitting, but I kept putting this book down.  This wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it.  Rather, it was because the authors did an exquisite job of building to the finale and I didn’t want it to end too quickly.

The plot is thick with tension and punctuated by action.  The characters, all of whom we’ve come to know by now, race toward a final confrontation that rocks the galaxy to its core.  At the same time, the authors point to what comes next, and I’m already looking forward to it.

Retribution is a fitting end to the beginning of what I hope is a long list of stories from Galaxy’s Edge.

 

Quote of the Day

I personally cannot yet find words adequate to tell you all that I feel as I stand here this morning by the dawn’s early light. So I echo the words someone recently shared with me: “Brent may have died on Afghan soil, but he died for the success of freedom and democracy in both of our countries.” — Jennie Taylor, widow of Major Brent Taylor, Utah National Guard

Musings

  • Tomorrow morning I go in to have blood drawn for an upcoming physical.  Dinner tonight included a very rare ribeye.
    • If I’m going to get chided about my cholesterol, I’m going to enjoy earning it.
  • Irish Woman and Boo decided to play some cards tonight.
    • It wasn’t that she’s teaching him how to play blackjack that concerned me.  It was that she was teaching him how to count cards.
  • Girlie Bear took the Greyhound back to Louisville this weekend.
    • There was the beginnings of a brawl starting when she got out of the station, so apparently little has changed in the couple of decades since I last took a bus.
    • There’s nothing like the time spent parked at a bus station in downtown Louisville on a Saturday morning to make you think, “You know, maybe I didn’t bring enough guns.”
  • Division of labor at our house:
    • Irish Woman is in charge of summer lawn care, specifically mowing and trimming.  I probably mow the grass two or three times a year.
    • I, on the other hand, am primarily responsible for leaf removal.  Irish Woman does, however, run the mower across the leaves a couple of times every year.
    • This works out that she does quite a bit of mowing over several months, while I do a lot of work over a few weeks.
    • I will point out, however, that it’s rather rare for the lawn to need mowing three times in one day. This weekend, I had to go over the leaves several times in order to not get buried.
    • I would also like to point out that when snow needs shoveling, that’s my job.
  • This morning, I had to run to the big box home center for a couple of things.  There was a young couple in the paint area.  It was quite obvious that the young lady of the pair was picking out paint for a new home. She was looking at about 17,235 shades of pastel something or other, and would squeal every time she found a new hue to consider.  The stack of paint cards clutched in her hand grew by the minute.
    • The young man looked like he would rather be drug behind a honey wagon for about ten miles of gravel road.  He visibly winced at several of the possibilities the young woman was considering.
    • I wanted to up to him, give him a manly hug, and tell him to be strong, because it was never going to end.  Ever.  Even after death, she’ll pick out the color of pillow he’d rest his head upon for eternity.

100 Years On – Mutiny!

On October 29, 1918, members of the German High Seas Fleet refused orders to prepare the fleet for one final battle against the British Navy.  Their activities ranged from work stoppages to outright mutiny and sabotage.

Initially, ringleaders were rounded up and imprisoned, and Navy leaders felt that the situation had been dealt with.  However, a growing number of sailors, allied with unions and socialist political groups, continued to conspire against the German government.

Finally, in the first week of November, an open revolt broke out in many parts of Germany.  Military units from the North Sea to Bavaria joined with civilians to overthrow the German government, eventually bringing down Kaiser Wilhelm himself.

100 Years On – Flu

In the second half of 1918, the second and largest wave of deaths caused by a worldwide flu pandemic built to a crescendo that killed more people than World War I.   While its origin is open to debate, it was soon rampant in every part of the world.

The conditions at training posts in the United States and in the battlefields of the First World War were almost tailor-made for the spread of the flu.  Soldiers on both sides of the trenches were falling to the illness in droves by the time the war ended.  When they returned home after the Armistice, the virus went with them to all the corners of the globe.

The Spanish Flu, in three waves that stretched between 1917 and 1920, killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide.  To put that in perspective, if a similar outbreak were to occur now, it would kill between 230 and 380 million people.

100 Years On – End of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

On October 20, 1918, the German Empire ended its program of unrestricted submarine warfare.  Off and on through out the war, German U-Boats had attacked shipping destined for Allied countries without warning.  This reduced the risk to the German boats and crews, but increased the loss of life on targeted ships.  The resumption of the tactic in 1917 was a calculated move to knock Great Britain out of the war before the United States could mass sufficient forces after they declared war.

In four years, German submarines sank over 4000 Allied and neutral ships, with a tonnage in excess of 8,000,000 tons.  Losses to the German fleet was 178 U-Boats and about 5000 sailors.

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