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The Secret World

Narrated by: Laurence Kennedy
Length: 36 hrs and 20 mins
4 out of 5 stars (260 ratings)

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Summary

The history of espionage is far older than any of today's intelligence agencies, yet the long history of intelligence operations has been largely forgotten. The codebreakers at Bletchley Park, the most successful World War II intelligence agency, were completely unaware that their predecessors in earlier moments of national crisis had broken the codes of Napoleon during the Napoleonic wars and those of Spain before the Spanish Armada. 

Those who do not understand past mistakes are likely to repeat them. Intelligence is a prime example. At the outbreak of World War I, the grasp of intelligence shown by US President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith was not in the same class as that of George Washington during the Revolutionary War and leading 18th-century British statesmen. 

In this book, distinguished historian Christopher Andrew recovers much of the lost intelligence history of the past three millennia - and shows its relevance today.

©2018 Christopher Andrew (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Editing is poor, but very detailed book

Unfortunately the editing on this audiobook is quite bad. sometimes sentences or parts of sentences are repeated, which seems like pretty poor form as it wasn't checked before releasing.

The book itself though is very detailed, easy to understand, and narrated nicely.

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Couldn't Finish This

Despite the good narration, I found this dull and couldn't finish the book. Very frequently it veers off at a tangent and you have to remind yourself what the book is actually about.

28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

inconsistency

excellent and informative but very variable sound quality throughout. A fascinating insight into intelligence gathering.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Hard Going At Times

Good story but sometimes goes awry (for me anyway) and goes off topic. This said it is well written and well narrated. But it is a long book.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A valuable perspective

Excellent piece of work, providing a valuable perspective on the past and the future. Well narrated

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Enthralling

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this--I picked it up because it seemed an interesting subject, and it was good and long. It's certainly long but never dry, an anecdote-stuffed wander through world history from an unusual perspective. The most enthralling non-fiction audiobook I've listened to in ages.

The James Mason-esque reader is a fun touch, he sounds just like one of the cynical, clever spies whose devious exploits he relates!

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating.

This is a truly intriguing and educational book, with a dry but strong narration. There are some appalling production issues with the recording though, with some sections so badly edited together it completely distracts from what is being said.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

poor editing

whilst the content is interesting, the performance is very poor, with the reader repeating words, as if the record had skipped.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not what it seems

More of a book about history with some link to intelligence, rather than a book about intelligence. Disappointing.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting content, but an irritating performance

So, first of all, this is clearly a well-researched and well-written book, and I definitely consider myself better informed having completed it. But it’s not an easy listen! At 35 hours, I wish the author had been a bit more selective with the material - I think the key themes would have come across just as well.

What made it really hard going, though, was the performance. For the first time (and I’ve listened to loads of audio books) I really felt that the delivery got in the way of the text. The narrator frequently did not succeed in conveying the full logic of the complex prose - as if he had understood it in short chunks but couldn’t carry the overall sense of a long sentence. Furthermore, he really mangled the foreign pronunciations. The text has quite a few French, German and Russian words and short phrases. In almost every case they were agonisingly wrong! In the first half of the book (most noticeably), the producer attempted to rectify the mispronunciations by splicing in corrected text - which in turn caused another great irritation. The studio and recording equipment used for the overdubs had very different acoustic properties, and consequently the new parts stuck out like bold manuscript amendments in a printed book. Add to this a monotonous delivery, and a few editing errors in the audio production (repeated paragraphs), and I think you get a sense of my frustration.

I’ve given the book four stars, and the performance two stars. But I feel as if I deserve five stars myself for dogged perseverance!

2 people found this helpful