Book News: May-June 2023

Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology

by Chris Miller

Chip War is an illuminating account of how everything depends on chips: armed drones, data centers, automobiles, missiles, the stock market, electrical grids, and smartphones. Until recently, America designed and built the fastest chips in the world. “Chip War” discusses the history of the semiconductor business, the relentless global competition, the importance of the role of Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Taiwan in the industry, and the rise of Silicon Valley. Also included in the narrative is the creation of Intel and the world’s most important chip maker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). They were founded by two incredible men: Andy Grove (Intel) and Morris Chang (TSMC).

Over a fifth of all chip fabrication happens in Taiwan. “The world is dependent on Taiwan for semiconductors. If production at one company in Taiwan stopped, the world would lose 37% of its capacity to make vital semiconductors and an even higher percentage of the most advanced semiconductors.” This is another reason the Chinese government wants control of Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait. China, an oppressive surveillance state, is in an aggressive race to dominate and control the semiconductor industry. It spends billions of dollars each year to accomplish this, along with egregious acts of spying, blackmail, and theft of intellectual property.

Highly informative, the Financial Times named this book their Best Business Book of the Year, while The Economist named it their Best Book of the Year.

Chris Miller is Assistant Professor of International History at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He also serves as Jeane Kirkpatrick Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Eurasia Director at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and as a Director at Greenmantle, a New York and London-based macroeconomic and geopolitical consultancy. He is the author of three previous books—Putinomics, The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy, and We Shall Be Masters—and he frequently writes for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, and other outlets. He received a PhD in history from Yale University and a BA in history from Harvard University.

Victory City

by Salman Rushdie

“While they lived, they were victors, or vanquished, or both.

Now they are neither.

Words are the only victors.”

Master storyteller Salman Rushdie’s latest novel opens during the 14th century as nine-year-old Pampa witnesses her mother joining grieving women in a mass ritual suicide by fire, a tradition in India at the time, when a husband dies. Pampa, declares she will never self-immolate, as custom requires. An Indian goddess appears to her and imbues Pampa with magical powers to promote and improve women’s status and life. The goddess also assures Pampa she will live a long, extended life in order to accomplish these goals. “Victory City,” known as Vijayanagar, will eventually be created by Pampa and become a utopia for many years.

I personally enjoy magical realism in literature, and this is a part of the charm of “Victory City.” The magical realism is playfully woven into the historical fiction to create an entertaining, often witty, and satirical epic saga. Enchanting and allegorical, it is cleverly based upon a fictional 24,000-verse epic poem from 14th century India. The title comes from the last passage of Pampa’s poem, written at the end of her over 200-year life. Ample philosophy to contemplate is included in the story, along with numerous references to classical mythology. A bewitching read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was carried away to another land, another time.

Rushdie was brutally attacked and stabbed numerous times last August by a Khomeini follower. He sustained damage to his liver, lost vision in one eye, and the use of one hand due to severed nerves. With his indomitable spirit, I am confident he will write more books.

Small Things Like These

by Claire Keegan

A gem of a book, it’s deceptively small, yet is packed with insight and compassion. A seemingly simple story, the protagonist, Bill Furlong, is a coal merchant and father of five daughters. He’s busy with the increased demand for coal during the chilly Christmas season. One morning, while delivering an order of coal to the local convent, he makes a discovery that will ultimately affect his life. He finds a scared teenage girl in terrible condition, surrounded by her own excrement, locked in an unheated coal shed. The girl, whose name is Sarah, says her fourteen-week-old baby had been taken from her by the nuns. Interestingly, her name is Furlong’s mother’s name.

He suddenly realizes what is happening with the young girls in the convent, where they labor in the busy convent laundry. Struggling with his conscience, he must decide what to do with this immoral situation and consider how his behavior will affect his family. There are severe consequences if he decides not to conform with the Church’s demands. His daughters need to be educated in a good Catholic school and his business depends on the Church. Although he has become moderately successful, he is still considered an outsider since he is illegitimate. Would the community shun him and his family? In the 1980’s, the Catholic Church still controlled every aspect of an individual’s life in Ireland.

His mother was just a teenager when he was born, and thanks to the kind, generous wealthy Protestant woman in town who took the two of them in, despite being ostracized by the community, he knows his life would have been very different. Furlong found himself asking was there any point in being alive without helping one another?

The narrative poignantly explores the complicity of a community that makes it possible for such inhumanity, such evil and disregard for the lives of others, to exist. It brings to mind the question: what are you, the reader, doing about injustice and indifference that can be so easily ignored? Ending optimistically, with hopefulness, the most significant aspect of this powerfully-written novel is not said, but implied, and to be reflected on.


In Ireland, the Catholic Church sponsored homes in which homeless and indigent girls were put to work in the now infamous Magdalen laundries, abused, and sometimes ending up in unmarked graves. Their children often died there or were put up for adoption. After two hundred years, the last one closed in 1996. Keegan writes: “Many girls and women were concealed, incarcerated, and forced to labour in these institutions. Ten thousand is the modest figure; thirty thousand is probably more accurate…Rarely was any of these girls’ or women’s work recognized or acknowledged in any way. Many lost their babies. Some lost their lives. Some or most lost the lives they could have had…It is not known how many of thousands of infants died in these institutions or were adopted out from the mother-and baby homes.”