Thumbnail review of #ShadowState: @lukeharding1968’s guided tour of Russia’s growing influence on the global political climate, vividly rendered and masterfully told. Buy Luke’s books. He’s good at this. (review cont. in thread)
Context! (aka who the hell are you?)
1: Writer of crip-lit. I appreciate craft. Good stories well told are my thing. So, what sticks out to me may not be what sticks out to others.
2: Have read Panama/Paradise papers, Mueller report, US Senate intel report, UK Russia Report, etc.
3. Twitter cramps my style. (this will be a few long threads that probably won’t be read in full by many, so anything directly related to the book will get hashtagged so wanderers-by can browse.)
4. Amazon had a bit of an issue with me getting too specific - gloves are off here.
Off we go!
#ShadowState What I’ve always appreciated about Luke’s writing is his ability to hold tight to the narrative thread of what he’s relating. Putin's Russia, like much of Russian history, is a dense thicket of intrigue, and thar be dragons. It would be easy....
... to fall into a bland recitation of facts lest you lose your way or confuse readers. And many authors have done exactly that. But he keeps his eyes (and thus ours) on the human aspect. Not only that - he consciously seeks to do the extra work required. #ShadowState
His knack for storytelling is useful for pulling in the novice, but it’s also an underappreciated skill that sets #ShadowState (and Harding's other books on Russia) apart from every other book about Russian influence I’ve read. Even if you have...
....your feet under you re: the main players, they come alive in #ShadowState. They have depth. Every page is crafted to remind you that these are real events that happened to real people. People just like us. Because they are, really, just like us. For good and for ill.
#ShadowState I think that’s underemphasized wrt Russia/Russian intrigue reporting. Too often, we in the West resort to typecasting Russians via our old Cold War mentalities, tissue paper thin caricatures of Slavic accented baddies, visions of Bond movies dancing in our heads.
#ShadowState We know it’s wrong to stereotype an entire region of the world, but it’s ingrained. It requires journalists who will challenge those assumptions, repeatedly, skillfully, and without apology, in order to vanquish them. And Luke Harding is one such journalist.
Want a book that’ll remind you that all that “West good, Russia bad” stuff is propaganda, and that we’re all equally capable of behaving well or badly, regardless of country of origin? This is that book. It’s a parenthetical point, but #ShadowState is shot through with it...
... as it should be. #ShadowState is as much warning as it is a retelling of and expansion on what we know so far. In the current climate, I think that’s an especially good thing. Standing for democracy is not dependent on nationality. Ask #Nalvany. Ask #Belarus.
The reverse is also true; living in the West does not make one immune to corruption or authoritarianism. Ask...well, too many to list. #ShadowState calls out the guilty parties without regard for origin, enumerates the details of their (known) transgressions...
.... and spends some worthwhile and fascinating time unpicking their motivations, where possible. I am slightly cleverer for having read it, and so will you be. #ShadowState
One of the things that struck me anew (been a while since I read Collusion) is how informed Luke is about US politics, and on an impressively granular level. (I am aware this is part of his professional remit...
and that my finding it impressive says more about me and the anti-intellectualism of my country than it does him.) But I know DNC party operatives who aren’t as well-versed on the DNC as Luke. Not kidding.
(The argument could be made that that’s part of our problem, but anyone who’s been around US politics for longer than ten minutes knows the Democratic party couldn’t organize a pissup in a brewery. We’re the lofty ideas party, not the doing stuff party. Twas ever thus.)
Back to #ShadowState. Nobody can put you in the room quite like Harding. Even if you’re familiar with how deep the pit of corruption and dirty money goes, having the sense that you’re in the room while it’s all going down is eerie. And it works. Holy mother of God, can he write.
#ShadowState The Skripal poisoning is where we start, and there’s quite a lot of detail in the recounting, courtesy of Luke and bellingcat. What we knew then and what we know now are fitted together quite well...
... & it sets the tone nicely, because the entire book is essentially embarking in a brave endeavor to, in a meticulous and informed way, assemble a jigsaw with ¼ of the pieces still missing. That’s less true of the Skripal case than most other things discussed in #ShadowState -
– most of the salient details are known now. But Luke spends some time on the one thing we don’t know– why? Why Skripal (a low value target relative to many others) and why then? This informed ruminating combined with quite a lot of new interviews also sets #ShadowState apart.
#ShadowState: Next we take a close look at the DNC hacking, and tbh there were so many things in this chapter that blew my mind, I had to stop and get out my copy of the Mueller Report to try to figure out how much was me failing to remember, and how much was...
info I was seeing for the first time. ~50/50, it turns out. (Brainfog is awesome!) But that should tell the USians something, especially re: election security. Have you read the Mueller Report? If not, and I’m 100% serious about this – Don’t. Go buy #ShadowState & read chapter 2.
Read the Mueller Report later - I do recommend it - but I’ve read at least a dozen walkthroughs of what happened, and the one in Shadow State is the easiest to get your head around of *all* of them. It is, quite simply, the easiest to follow. #ShadowState
End of thread one. Excerpts will be in the next thread, which will be up as fast as I can get all the alt-text typed for the low/no vision folks reading (shooting for half an hour but we'll see).

Buy the book here. Or Amazon, if you must.
You can follow @seanchaibeag.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: