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Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam Paperback – Bargain Price, March 13, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
The only part of the book that dragged was the day to day routine the prisoners dealt with (only a few were tortured i.e. beaten, most were just holed up, some alone for months on end and repeatedly interrogated and harrassed by uneducated fundamental "students"). The prisoners were held hostage for ever 440 days and like their monotonous time spent sitting in their rooms, the book got a little monotonous talking about it. One reason I bought the book was to hopefully learn something about the history of our two cultures and where it went wrong. Mr. Bowden's storytelling capabilities are so strong that to a point, the history lesson I was looking for was somewhat clouded by the situation he was writing about. This isn't a complaint, but I may have to re-read part of the book to find some of facts I was initially looking for.
His character development was excellent, and added strength to the stories when talking about clashing personalities, prisoners harrassing the guards or doing un-Islamic things in front of the guards to embarrass them. His research on the failed Delta mission was first class (and very sad in regards to the time and energy spent along with the loss of such capable men) as was his research on Carter and his administration during the whole crisis.Read more ›
As usual, Mark Bowden does a superb job of cutting through the mitigating complexities to deliver a strong narrative that imbues the reader with a clear picture of the unfolding events. He delivers nuanced portraits of many of the hostages, candidly exploring both their strengths and weaknesses. Simultaneously, he tells the saga of the birth of Delta Force, and the botched rescue attempt that was their infamous first mission.
While I found "Guests of the Ayatollah to be enjoyable and compelling, it fell short of Bowden's "Killing Pablo", and "Black Hawk Down". I believe the primary reason is that Bowden is at his best when depicting scenes of action and mayhem, whether Special Operations firefights or Columbian drug wars. While "Guests" does contain many action driven passages, the bulk of it is devoted to the ways in which the hostages dealt with the tedium of captivity. Obviously that is an essential part of the story, but I found it led to some passages that seemed repetitive, especially the ones that detail criticisms of the hostage's guards, and of the philosophy of the Iranian cultural revolution. The secondary weakness of the book is the ending, in which Bowden switches to a first person perspective to discuss his own ideas about Iran in the present day. For me it lessened the impact carried by the rest of the book.
My two complaints are very minor, but enough to prevent a full five star rating. This fascinating and imformative book is a great aid for understanding the current crisis developing between America and Iran. Ultimately, any reader should find this to yield many rewards.
The author of "Black Hawk Down" chillingly describes the doomed Delta One Task Force rescue attempt in the midst of a presidential election year. His research will make this book the definitive account of this crisis. Mr. Bowden seems to have interviewed everyone involved : the hostages, the Iranians, Delta Force soldiers, and American politicians. He injects himself into the epilogue as he traveled four times to Iran in 2003-2004 to track down the key Iranian participants. "Guests of the Ayatollah" is a page-turner that sheds background and light onto the current nuclear crisis with Iran.
Bowden takes us inside the U.S. embassy just as the takeover was about to be launched. In short order, we meet an incredible cast of real-life characters, from street savvy embassy staffers like Michael Metrinko to clueless government officials and over-confident radicals. As the hostage crisis unfolds, we can see how the self-righteous "joy" over the initial takeover quickly degenerated into a sad drama of suspicion, prejudice and incompetence that dragged on for 444 days - much longer than anyone really wanted, including the hostage takers themselves.
To make matters even worse, the very same radicals who launched this tragic episode are now largely in control of the Iranian government. Many Americans are still clueless about the events that got us to this place. It's a bad dream that just won't go away...
Both Iran and the U.S. get their fair share of criticism in this exhaustively researched book. If you're looking for an "us vs. them, good guys vs. bad guys" treatment, don't look here. Bowden properly points out our massive intelligence failures before, during AND after the initial embassy seizure. Even the aborted rescue mission seems rooted in a fantasy cloud of wishful thinking. For their part, the Islamic radicals come across as typical "true believers" who never let the facts get in the way of the "truth.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent research but tedious. Too long too much detail.Published 6 months ago by Alexandra S. Floyd
Well written and insightful, bringing clarity and answers to many questions raised at the time. Great job on bringing out what the individual hostage experienced.Published 9 months ago by Brian J.B.
I was a freshman in college, just weeks from my eighteenth birthday, when the American Embassy in Tehran was overrun by students and the occupants made hostage. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Scott Whitmore
Poorly written, several hundred pages too long, not interesting. A disappointment.Published 15 months ago by Greg Smith
It was so intertaining and gruesome at times. had nightmares. I remember when all this happened so it was great to read the bookPublished 15 months ago by Evelyn Haber
Excellent read! Gives the hostages and captors perspectives and also goes into detail about the rescue mission!Published 15 months ago by Mary Halter
Really a fascinating look into the details of the hostage situation in Iran and an enlightening look at why the Muslim world hates America. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Dr. Kristi S. Fowler
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave me insight into the history involving the United States and Iran. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Jeffrey Croucher