Spy School: Are You Smart Enough To Be A KGB Agent?, by Denis Bukin and Kamil’ Guliev
At first glance, this is the sort of book that I might be expected to hate given my antima political views. That said, this book is very capable of being viewed in a variety of different ways, and even those who are hostile to the KGB and generally low in interest in joining surveillance agencies of any kind may find something interesting in the way that this book urges people to act according to their belief systems on the one hand, and also to demonstrate an awareness of much that the rest of the world takes for granted. And it is that awareness that really shines through here. The book is filled not only with an interesting story about someone who became an important KGB figure through a chain of events detailed here, but there are also a great many tests along the way that help determine if someone is fit to work for any intelligence agency, and if one has the right temperament and the right combination of thrillseeking and ideological commitment. I would make a terrible KGB agent, but at least some aspects of spycraft are definitely appealing.
PsyQ: Test Yourself, by Ben Ambridge
This book is not quite as clever as it thinks it is. Most of the book consists of the author trying to prove how clever he is in understanding some supposed aspect of intelligence through quizzes (many of which are somewhat fake), puzzles, and the discussion of various experiments. There are certainly people who are going to like this book more than I do, but it is people who feel flattered rather than insulted by the author’s attempts to trick the reader and affirm his own cleverness. For me, speaking personally, this book would have been far more enjoyable had the author subtly attempted to win over the reader by convincing the reader that he or she was clever rather than assuming that the reader was someone who was only clever by being like the writer. Rather than testing oneself only, the reader of this book, especially one who is bothered by the author’s tone, approach, and perspective, is likely to test the writer and to find him wanting. This is only just.
This is an interesting set of books to review together… the first objectively leaving it up to the reader to find out if he or she has the personality to be a spy or government agent and the other a subjective text to prove that the author’s cleverness–and the reader’s intelligence in relation to it. I, too, tend to resent being talked down to.
Yes, it is interesting how different approach can matter when dealing with subject matter.