Inspired to read this because of the author’s hilarious responses in his AMA on reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/4dxfoy/iama_former_cia_case_officer_who_recently/), I decided to take a detour from my normal sci-fi reading, and boy am I glad I did. This was an absolutely amazing, wonderful book. I finished it in less than a week because I could hardly put it down.
His writing in his book was even more entertaining than his responses in his AMA. I was truly engrossed in his stories. I celebrated as I read about his triumphs and accomplishments in the field as he developed his skills. I felt for him when he had to deal with problems back home because of his unique job and the fact that had to have a cover. I empathized with his frustration later in his career as the bureaucracy of the CIA stifled his efforts and work.
He really brought me into the story with his writing. It was amazing. I had to remember at times that this is not a fictional story. This shit happened, which makes it all the more amazing. Really puts things in perspective when I spend years trying to learn Chinese as an asian kid in America and I’m only barely competent conversationally, and this guy from the Midwest learns freaking Pashtu, and has to re-learn a different dialect of it on the fly when he is put on his first assignment.
The book really opened my eyes to the life of a case officer overseas, what he dealt with on a daily basis, but more importantly, what the landscape is over there. The media paints a picture of our enemies in the middle east as religious zealots that are motivated entirely by misguided notions of their religion, but the way that Douglas Laux tells it, a lot of them are just motivated by survival. And so he’s able to turn some of them into intelligence assets, including some very important ones in the Taliban structure, just by giving them money, earning their trust, and promising them and their families better lives. That’s mind boggling.
More than that, Douglas Laux’s perspective on the political climate over there was fascinating. It’s too bad the CIA censors got to some of his cooler revaluations, including one where he accuses a country (whose identity we can’t know) of openly being our allies to our face, but then directly funding our enemies and supplying them with IEDs and ways to kill our soldiers. My guess? Has to be Saudi Arabia, but I guess we’ll never know. This book has inspired me to learn more about the history and politics of the Middle East, especially since it seems to be the epicenter of so much of our world conflict nowadays.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone look for an entertaining read. His writing style is great (and sometimes hilarious!); you’re going to love it and the pages will just fly by. And bonus, you might end up learning something about a part of the world that most of us don’t think about even though it’s pretty damn important to world affairs.