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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 9 October 2009
I was looking forward to reading this book and I wasn't let down when I got round to buying it. A vivid and thoroughly researched account of the Columbine Massacre which I think nothing else before or after has come close to rivaling.

However, there are two small points which I'd like to pick up on that I did not think the authour addressed:

Firstly, I read or heard from other sources that Wayne Harris (Eric Harris' father) phoned 911 during the massacre to express his cocern that he believed his son was involved. Yet there is no mention in the book about this. In fact it claims that Tom Klebold (Dylan Klebolds' father) had rang 911 during the massacre. I wonder if anyone could explain this discrepancy.

Secondly, I was surprised that after so much research and vivid retelling of numerous connecting storylines to the massacre, the library massacre wasn't recreated in much detail. There were scenes from the library which were certainly very harrowing and remarkable which were mentioned in the book, such as Patrick Ireland's incredible escape through the window, or Emily Wyant's account of the Cassie Bernall incident. Yet there were other important moments which were worth a mention, such as one student who escaped with the killers permission because they knew him. (John Savage I think his name was)

Overall, despite these two minor omissions, the book is compelling and extremely detailed. If you are interested in true crime stories or just the columbine massacre this book is a must have. Even for those who know nothing about columbine it serves as a dramatic story to a community that was left shattered by such a catastrophic event.

5 stars.
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on 11 November 2009
The first thing Dave Cullen's book does is debunk the myths that have surrounded the Columbine shootings. No, it had nothing to do with Marilyn Manson, the so-called 'Trenchcoat Mafia' thing was irrelevant, no, these were not boys who were relentlessly bullied and just snapped.

The book is harrowing not just because of what happened but how it happened. How they planned it in much greater detail than just a shooting, how they could go to their school prom on the Saturday and carry out the massacre on a Tuesday, and how, because of their behaviour and certain incidents, it might have been stopped. The psyschological evaluation of Eric Harris, in particular, is fascinating. I won't spoil it but the book makes more sense of this tragedy than any lurid TV report or tabloid crap about goths or loners.

There's such an element of sadness too. Eric and Dylan and two young boys who probably should never have met but it's the victims and the famlies of the victims who paid for their relationship. Cullen's reportage is excellent, he's not afraid to show people as they really are. That goes for the killers and some victim's family members who he is not afraid to paint in, not so much a bad light, as their true colours.

Columbine was an event that defined an era, this is the book that defines the event. Brilliant.
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on 14 September 2009
What a brilliantly written book.

Reads like a novel and is so readable, which to me is highly unsual for "True Crime" books.

I came away from this book amazed and saddened for ALL involved. Yes even Dylan and Eric. So sad..

Being from the UK I had not heard al lot of the "myths" surrounding the whys and wherefores of this tradegy.

What I was more horrified about was the reaction of the religeous community, which in the USA I found really really scary anyway!!

If you are intrested in this story, this is the best.
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This is a fascinating description of an horrific act which has become a byword for spree killings at schools and colleges. The author describes exactly what happened and brings together all the information from various sources including interviews with some of those involved. Although he points to a few explanations and possible causes you won't finish this book with an understanding of exactly why these two young men did what they did - it does seem very much as though there is no real explanation because their motivation and thought processes are having to be reconstructed from what they left behind.

What happened at Columbine could have been much worse. The perpetrators actually planned to set off bombs that would have destroyed the whole school and all those within it. The fact that this failed meant that those who dies were limited to those who were shot - that doesn't make it any better. The book works chronologically through the story and tells it through a number of eyes - mainly those where the author has had interview evidence. This does mean that he has had to choose which parts of the story to tell and naturally he has had to impose a narrative on the events so if you were studying this event you would need more sources but for the casual reader like myself it feels comprehensive and I certainly felt that I understood what had happened even if I didn't understand why. The author also mentions some shady work by law enforcement to hide what might have been inadequacies in the investigation as well as hinting about possible collusion from others which was never proved (I suspect he is being very careful here because of possible legal action taken against him).

I can't say that I enjoyed this book but I found it compelling reading. Following through the series of events building up to the massacre and then its aftermath made the book easy to grasp and I thought that the author did a good job of showing us where the evidence came from for his view on events. For a British reader the thing which is hardest to grasp here is how these young men could have had access to to firearms and explosives so easily and why gun control is so opposed in the USA following this sort of event. For me, I found this a horrifying insight into actions that I don't think I will ever understand.
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on 14 April 2009
It's hard to believe the Columbine shooting happened 10 years ago. I have always been interested by it - such an unusual, atypical scenario, and wanted to find out more. This book goes into great detail of the lives of the 2 shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in the year before the event. They left so much material - journals, videos etc. that the author can establish clear timelines of their thought process and reasons for decisions they made. It raises the fact that this was never supposed to be a regular school shooting, but a massive bombing attack that went wrong. It goes into the reactions and emotions of the town (and especially the surviving students) following the attack, and how they have moved forward from it.
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on 16 October 2014
It feels wrong to say a book written about such a tragedy was good but thats essentially the best way to describe it. Columbine for me gave me an insight into the lives of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and it's scary to see their attitudes and behaviour changes in the build-up to the massacre. Nobody could have seen what happened that day coming but books like this highlight the changes and act as a warning. I liked the way the Author gave an insight into the victims as well as the perpetrators so that they too were given a voice.

Whatever you think about Eric Harris and Dylan Kelbold my personal opinion of their families is one of sadness. As with every tragedy it is those that are left behind that bare the brunt. In their shoes I too would have shut the doors and closeted myself away. Nothing they could say would change what happened.

There were no winners in Columbine. It was a horrible tragedy that left behind many victims both living and dead. What amazes me is that with so many children killed there have been no changes to the gun laws in the US. But thats a debate for another time.
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on 3 November 2012
Having read loads on this subject, I was left disappointed with this. Its claim that it dispels myths of Columbine are only true on a superficial level, e g Eric and Dylan were indeed not part of the trenchcoat mafia and the attack was not prompted by any sort of music. However the assertion that Eric was a popular ladies man and that the pair were not bullied and low down on the social spectrum is not corroborated by any other book i've read, on the contrary the opposite picture emerges. Also the authors contention that the attack was an exercise in pure psychopathic egotism, with a depressed Dylan following like an obedient puppy dog, does not ring true on the basis of other material I've read. For a more realistic appraisal of this tragedy I would recommend Philip Larkins 'Comprehending Columbine' which looks at and merges both sociological and psychological factors, while Dave Cullen writes a fiction style type book to progress his purely psychological account and theory to the detriment of a rounded picture.
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on 5 May 2014
Im a huge fan of true crime, I have read all the classics and am constantly on the outlook for great true crime I haven't yet read. When I saw Columbine had gotten so many great reviews I purchased it with very high hopes indeed.

Sadly its a drag, the reason being that the story is broken continuously with Christian babble, I realise the events being regaled transpired in a particularly religious part of America, but there is no need to keep going on-and-on about it. The author is obviously a religious man himself and for this reason I was never able to fully immerse my self in the text, it's as if Dave Cullen is constantly there with you expressing not only the religious views of those whom the story involves, but also his own.

I kept finding myself sighing, rolling my eyes and saying 'Who cares how religious this particular family is and who there reverend is and that the reverend hes known Tommy Twizzle his whole wholesome life? Get on with the story'. I've never read a book where the religious standing of the protagonists was given so much credence.

Im not sure what link the author is trying to make, I think he might be saying 'bad things happen to good people and if you didn't know good people are religious'. I think he's also trying to say that the good people of Columbine are certainly not to blame for the terrible events. Which I whole heartedly agree with, but I don't feel this point needs to be laboured as its obvious. What we have here is a case of narcissistic sociopath and weak easily lead astray suicidal and possibly homosexual friend, go on a killing spree in a country (USA) where is incredibly easy to buy guns.

The story is harrowing to say the least and I found some of it particularly hard to read because its was so upsetting. The book could have been really good, it also could have been 150 pages shorter.
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on 5 June 2014
to be honest, i have read the book before i bought it on amazon (i borrowed it from the library) but i wanted to have a clean copy by my side.
'columbine' is an insight into the massacre that happened on 20th april 1999 that left 13 dead and around 2 dozen injured.
the book also illustrates quite vividly, the recovery process of one of the more severely injured victims, presumably because the author contacted him
after the second read i still felt the gush of overwhelming sadness following the first time i read the book (2 years ago)
however i also noted that the sequence of the chapters could be quite jumbled up, sometimes going forwards and sometimes backwards, from different povs each time - the killers, the parents, the reverend etc
also, have read up the massacre on the internet, i found much of what was written in the book - or perhaps even more
to me it felt as if the author had lifted different accounts of what happened and fit it into a book - it does not feel as if it were a product of thorough research.

overall, it is an amazing read, but perhaps due to the lack of access to substantial evidence, i felt that it lacked the depth required for it to be a true documentary of what happened prior, during and after that fateful day.
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on 21 October 2009
After almost ten years covering the case, Cullen's book about Columbine shows the work of a dedicated and thoughtful journalist. It's meticulous in detail, challenging or corroborating even the smallest facets of the massacre.

The result is a chilling and often horrific read. Notably, the latter half of the book alternates between a reconstruction of Eric Harris and Dylan Kleebold's thoughts and activities during the preceding year, and the struggles of the survivors and grieving community to move on in the years after the massacre. For a reader, it creates a sensation like taking a shaky step forward, then being kicked backwards. Is it an effective structure? Maybe, but it makes a disturbing account feel even more harrowing.

As a book about psychopathy, depression and so-called killing 'dyads', it's fascinating. As a book that cuts through the rumours and myths surrounding Columbine, it's an undeniably important document. But is it a book I ever want to read again? No.
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