Because I mentioned Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver a couple of times earlier this year, I will now add that I’ve finished reading it. The pace picks up a bit around page 800.

To be slightly less unfair, I should say that a number of people have told me that the second and third books are better. And the narrative pace does not detract from the argument about the beginning of modern Europe, which is an interesting one.

Also, Body of Secrets drags towards the end, too. The last two chapters seemed to be mostly proving that he had walked around inside NSA-land and talked to a bunch of people about things that had largely been secret before. It read like he was paying his sources back for the access they had granted. I think the basic problem is that the details from the late 1990s are still close for Bamford to have worked out the historical importance of what he learned. That’s a real contrast to the parts of the books that cover the period from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Anyway, Bamford’s new bookis about intelligence failures that preceded 9/11 and the misuse of intelligence in the runup to the Iraq war. If he’s still got his good sources, it should be a knockout.

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