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Some bright spots, but generally flat
on April 24, 2015
I picked up this book to try and learn as much as I could about Saudi Arabian history and current affairs, as I’m currently living in Bahrain. Sadly, the author too often detracts from the country, and instead the reader finds itself in Afghanistan. This is frustrating, especially considering the volume of works covering topics like OBL, the jihad in Afghanistan, and the Taliban, compared to Saudi Arabia. Part of the problem, of course, is how closed of a society it is. Even covering major events like the Grand Mosque takeover, the 2002 Mecca school fire, and public perception is difficult to find a truth rather than best guesses at what happened.
The truth is, there are much better books on the topics Lacey covers, so he markets this book as being about Saudi Arabia, rather than what it really is about: just another book on Islamic fundamentalist terrorism - with OBL at the center. To validate this “twist” he includes some history on Saudi Arabia and the royal family, as well as a brief highlight on the seizure of the Grand Mosque. But other than that, skip this book and read Ghost Wars and The Looming Tower. Lacey writes like a journalist here, focusing on a few human sources, generally taking their word for it, and not doing enough work to fill the gaps with substance between the anecdotes. No discussion on the economics, foreign relations, or what it’s like for the average Saudi.