Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Review: Argo by Antonio J. Mendez (and Matt Baglio)



     I read this for the CLPL Real World Reads Book Club (non-fiction club) for May 2013.  It was a really easy read and since I did not see the movie or any trailers for it I was not sullied by it before reading.  I plan on getting the movie from the library now that I have read it to see if it is any good compared to the book.  Apparently they are very different, as the actual rescue does not happen until the last 20 pages of the book, and I was told that the rescue itself is what the entire movie focuses on, so the film must be quite different in feel from the book.
     The book's author had a really nice writer's voice, it was not tense or scary, it was informative and fun, a pretty light read actually compared to other non-fiction books I have read.  It was a quick read too, you kind of blink and you are halfway through the book.  It was interesting to find out how makeup artists helped the CIA improve their disguise tactics over the years, and little details like making sure you have the right staple on a fake passport because a certain country uses cheap ones that rust on purpose.  We also never find out the real name of the makeup artist who worked with the CIA for so many years, so I am curious if anybody has put all the little fact crumbs the author gives the reader together and has figured out who the makeup artist really was/is...
     I am still a little up in the air about how I feel about the government spending $10,000 in the late 1970s (must be an enormous amount in today's terms) to rescue only 6 people who were pretty safe in a nice mansion and hosted by the Canadian ambassador.  They spent their time tanning, enjoying a few beverages, and playing scrabble, so the amount of money spent seems a bit excessive for people not in any kind of serious and immediate danger.  I also could not believe how the rescue of the rest of the people held hostage in the U.S. embassy for 444 days went so terribly wrong and that the head honchos of the government agencies  were not smart enough to try and use the cover story again in some way.  Since I was extremely young when all this happened, it helped put the time period into context for me, and also why the U.S. tried to keep up diplomatic relations with Iran, how it overlapped with the USSR making their way into Afghanistan, and why this helped motivate many people to not re-elect Jimmy Carter.  Pretty slick timing on the part of the Ayatollah Khomeini.
     Definitely worth a read, it is interesting, informative, and a fairly light book considering it is a pretty heavy political topic and shares some working methods of the CIA.  Their ability to find people who can look like multiple ethnicities, speak multiple languages, and go unnoticed as an average Joe makes me wonder how many times we have actually seen them in airports and just do not know it...


And so it goes...
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