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Dyer, Gwynne.

Toronto, Stoddart, c1985. 272pp, cloth, $25.95, ISBN 0-7737-2068-5. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Allan S. Evans

Volume 14 Number 2
1986 March

Gwynne Dyer is an expatriate Canadian journalist whose internationally recognized area of expertise is, as he describes it, that peculiar form of organized human violence known as war. Already well-known as a syndicated newspaper columnist and author-narrator of an acclaimed television documentary on war, Dyer essentially has converted the narration and dialogue from the television series to book form. He clearly has fleshed out this skeleton from the copious research notes accumulated in the preparation of that television series. The result is a fascinating treatise on the subject, displaying respectable scholarship. Warfare is analysed, not only in terms of its historical evolution, but also with regard to its various causes and effects. After a brief, but effective introduction, the author begins to trace the development of war from its earliest roots through the impact of many changes to the current nuclear arms race with its potential for virtual annihilation of earth's major life forms. Dyer points out that, in the past, war was a logical, and at times effective, method by which a state defended or enlarged its interests. And in a world of sovereign states with no central police force, it was a virtually inevitable occurrence. The prospect of total destruction by global nuclear war is now so terrifying that the more powerful nations behave more responsibly than weaker ones. Yet we are daunted by the realization that "any event that has a definite probability, however small, that does not decrease with time will eventually occur."

Despite its depressing theme, this book is attractive for two main reasons. First, it does not have the terrible dullness of a heavily technical treatment. True, the pages are full of gruesome facts and photos, chilling statistics, and some gloomy predictions. Yet, there are so many anecdotes, fascinating quotes, and rare facts or details that interest is kept consistently high. Moreover, Dyer injects a constant vein of philosophical commentary that adds great depth and meaning to the work. Not infrequently, he does this with laconic, pithy comments interjected in an almost casual fashion. For example, the very last page of text consists of a photo of two British soldiers marching home, backs to the camera. The caption: "Good-bye war. Probably worth a try."

This book has a reading level best suited to university undergraduates or the best senior high school students. It prefcably will be ripped apart by pretentious academics, but guarantees interesting and informative reading for those prepared to leap or ignore such obstacles.

Allan S. Evans, North York Board of Education, North York, Ont.
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