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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Infernal Machine: An Alternative History of Terrorism
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 13 December 2012
This book is around 400 pages split into 3 parts of a total 12 chapters and epilogue on its chosen subject. It is reasonably well written and though it could have done with a proper editing, often rn is printed as m so stern gang comes out as stem gang. Also one glaring factual error was to call the Irish republican Wolfe Tone a 'seventeenth century Irish revolutionary' when in fact he was alive in the late eighteenth century. That aside much of the research appears to be solid and topical particular in the modern era.

The history is told in roughly chronological order commencing with the story of Russian group's like the People's Will and brief discussion of the origin of the idea of terrorism in modern times. The discussion and history moves on quite briskly to a chapter on anarchists and dynamiters. The narrative is not confined to one country or incident but encompasses a basic theme of describing key incidents of terrorist activity and the counter terrorism response. Various chapters take a theme in and around a certain period like nationalist based terrorists like the IRA in Northern Ireland or ETA in the Basque country of Spain, the urban guerilla groups of Germany and Italy in this period are dealt with separately as are the Palestinian groups and so on. Each section might refer back to another one, there is generally a brief description of a political situation or the circumstances of the terrorist activity with a focus on some key incidents like the kidnap and murder of Italian politician Aldo Moro in the description of the Red Brigades activities or the activities of infamous characters such as Carlos. There is whole separate section devoted to the war on terror and its origins. The scope of the book is global in its story telling but it covers incidents of terrorism by in large familiar to a western audience, particularly one brought up on tv news coverage of same in recent decades. The central argument repeated again and again with numerous stories and discussion is that the terrorism may have a grievance however vile the actions of the terrorist, that the terrorists often have a back story obscured in the media or by state or other agencies and quite often the counter terrorism response results in far more death and destruction and other negative fallout for the wider population Furthermore the point is constantly made of various groups and states involved in killings that go on in say wars that are not classified as terrorist activities and receive less attention and opprobrium in the media. There is plenty to think about in this book. Other commentators like Adam Curtis in his documentary series The power of nightmares have covered similar ground particularly in the origins and manifestations of Al Qaeda and the war on terror. Overall this is an interesting read and as it describes itself an alternative history which places a contextualisation on political violence that is important to know about and raise awareness of other perspectives on the subject.
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on 13 March 2014
Very accessible, used it extensively for my course in the subject matter. Reads with a vibrant narrative, never dull or academic.
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