Agent 110 – Scott Miller.
This is a fine, brisk look at the activities of Allen Dulles, future CIA director, through his years as an OSS officer in Switzerland during World War II. Residing just across the border from Germany, he quickly put together a network of Germans who, for one reason or another, were plotting against Hitler and his government. The book looks at Dulles’ role in assisting people inside Germany who were looking to assassinate Hitler and his efforts to bring about an early surrender of German forces in Italy to help the western powers beat the Soviets to Berlin.

As I said, it’s brisk. This feels like a book that should be a lot closer to 600 pages. But, to be honest, I don’t know if I would read 600 pages about Dulles’ years in Switzerland. So perhaps it is the perfect length.

On Tyranny – Timothy Snyder
Speaking of Nazis, I’ve wanted to read Snyder’s Bloodlands, about how the Germans and Russians decimated the land and people between their countries during the second half of World War II, for years.

Instead, I read this, where he draws on some of that knowledge to write about modern times.

He takes 20 lessons learned from the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century to help his readers understand when a modern tyrannical state might develop.

This book is not accidental or coincidental. Although he never writes the name of our current buffoon-in-chief, he directly addresses how Donny John used many techniques also used by Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini during his campaign for president. And, amazingly, pretty much every day that passes makes Snyder seem even more prescient and less paranoid.

The Regional Office Is Under Attack! – Manuel Gonzalez
I picked up this book based solely on its title. Actually, it was just the exclamation point in the title. “That looks promising!” I thought to myself.

Big pay off!

The title tells you exactly what the book is about: the regional office really is under attack! But don’t think Dunder-Mifflin when you consider what this regional office is. Rather, it is a secret organization that uses a force of super-powered young women to battle various forces of evil. Aliens. Warlocks. Time travelers. And other dark forces common to fantasy, sci-fi, and comic books.

But here’s the thing that makes the book brilliant: all that stuff is just hinted at. Gonzalez tosses us little hints here and there about what goes on when the women are out in the field. The focus is this attack on their highly secured headquarters.

The story of that battle is told from multiple perspectives. From one of the operatives who has turned against the Regional Office and is part of the attack. From one staff member of the Regional Office staff who is trying fighting off the attack. From academic papers written about the attack years later. From a group of employees who are held hostage during the attack. And each of these points-of-view jump around in time to give us an understanding of what the Regional Office does, how they find and train their operatives, who runs it, and what the aftermath of the attack is. Sometimes Gonzalez offers up three different perspectives of the same event.

I often struggle with books that fall into the fantasy/sci-fi realms. I thought this one was brilliant, though. It both satirizes those genres and is fiercely loyal to them. It’s the perfect middle ground for a reader like me that struggles with accepting those fantasy worlds. Based on some reviews I read, I think someone who is more into fantasy than I am might get more out of the book as it challenges many of the assumptions that are now cannon in that genre.

The depth of the book really doesn’t matter to me. It’s just a ton of fun to read. And even if I can’t get the broader, literary elements of it, I could certainly relate to the more emotional elements of the story. For all of its oddness, the story at its core is about pretty traditional stuff: relationships, the search for personal identity, and the desire for righting wrongs and finding revenge.

It was excellent.