This is a work of history by novelist Nicholson Baker, though it reads like fiction. Baker weaves together diaries and journals, newspaper reports, radio addresses, magazine profiles and interviews to buttress the book’s thesis, which is that civilians are the fodder of war. Leaders know the truth and yet they engage in killing. Civilians know the truth and yet they follow their leaders into war. Spanning the period from the late 1800s to the beginning of World War II, Human Smoke climaxes in the greatest historical example of the end of civilization, the murder of six million innocents in the Holocaust.
Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Terror, and maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com.