Ted Koppel: Lights Out

In this tour de force of investigative reporting, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.
Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before. 

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.” 

And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid.  The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.

In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?

With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.

Every book sounds good on late night talk shows. It’s the host’s job to provide enough witty banter to make the book sound exciting and accessible to everyone. There’s a reason it’s called “The Colbert Bump.”

However, I quickly learned that Lights Out was not written for me. It’s probably extremely well-researched, informative–even interesting. I just couldn’t get into it. It just went over my head from the very beginning. You really need to have a solid foundation in military structures and acronyms to get more than 20 pages in. After that you start to lose the thread quickly. I had zero idea of what he was talking about.

I’ll put this on my shelf, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see my husband pick it up eventually. He’s way more into military nonfiction than I am, and I know he was interested in Koppel’s Colbert interview too. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get further into this, it sounded like an interesting (albeit terrifying) theory.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing for an unbiased review. This post does contain affiliate links.


The Camelot Conspiracy

I am always on the fence on whether I should review a book I did not finish, and whether I should count it as “read.” And sometimes, I will even battle through a book just so that I could do those two things without guilt. Other times, it just isn’t worth it. There are other books to read, and today is my day off. After getting through half, it’s time to move on.


But first, why didn’t I finish The Camelot Conspiracy? Mostly, it’s just not my genre. This is very much what I call a “husband” book. Honestly, the entire time it has been on the shelf, I’ve thought it was nonfiction. The cover looks like one of those political histories, or whatever you want to call them. So when I read the author’s note and was informed it was actually a novel, I was very surprised! I’m trying to make my rounds through all the books in our collection…even the ones that aren’t “mine,” so I can read a bit out of my comfort zone, and this one came up in my cycle.

It didn’t start terribly. It was actually a little interesting for the first 100 pages. However, there is a lot going on, and I don’t know a lot about the Bay of Pigs and the Cold War. It’s not a period of history that is of particular interest to me, so a lot of the historical figures, dates, landmarks, etc were pretty fuzzy. I probably need to freshen up on my research into that era before I try to read fiction about it.

There also were SO many chess pieces in this game to keep track of. This is a novel of conspiracy, after all, and it got very confusing, very fast. I think that’s what did it for me in the end. Once I got lost…I was done for, and it no longer held my attention.

One more note–the editing in this book is a mess, which drives me absolutely insane. The quotation marks are so very often misplaced that it is hard to tell who is talking or when a conversation starts and ends, and sometimes they are missing altogether. Stuff like that just makes me nuts.

So there you have it. I don’t like to give bad reviews often, but I just couldn’t get behind this one.