Top positive review
31 people found this helpful
Immense fun and of practical benefit, but....
on 26 September 2004
First and foremost, this book is immense fun to read, because every point is exemplified with true stories from history - stories of the success wrought by adhering to each 'law' and, even more amusingly, stories of the consequences that followed from breaking the 'law' (a great example is the story of Louis XIV and his finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet. Voltaire is quoted at the end of this passage: "When the evening began, Fouquet was at the top of the world. By the time it had ended, he was at the bottom"). Why is seeing the powerful fall flat on their faces so heartening?
I have a slight reservation about its style. It is written in a way as if to advise the reader on how to attain power, rather like a PMA book. I took this style initially to be intended as tongue-in-cheek. Whether or not that was the intention (and I think it was), it definitely should be seen that way. The author does stress the point at the beginning that power is a game. The implication is that, as with all games, one should not become attached to the idea of power. He makes the point that having no power is misery, but that having power and not having peace of mind is pointless. Power therefore cannot be an end in itself, as many powerful figures have failed to discover.
I have noted that some reviewers do not agree with all the 'laws'. I don't feel able to comment as, so far, I have just been enjoying the idea that 'power' can be broken down in this way. If I do find, on reflection (as well as on finishing the book, as I'm barely past the first 100 pages), that I disagree with some of the 'laws' here, I will still have a view on an aspect of power that I wouldn't have otherwise had - in disagreeing with a principle, one makes up one's own. And remember, even the powerful can get it very wrong (poor Nicolas!). However, the author does recognize that there are exceptions to every rule and at the end of each chapter, cites further examples from history that are, what he calls, a 'reversal' of the law.
As well as being entertaining, I have certainly learned practically from this book. I don't think that I will ever view my disagreements with others in the same way again. But it should not be seen as some kind of gospel and therefore taken too rigidly (as one reviewer appears to have done). As I think I have shown, I don't believe the author intended it to be that way anyway. Lightness is the key.
I would love to see more editions of this book with further historical anecdotes. I agree with the person who said they were not particularly interested in history before - this book could really give you a taste for it.