Top critical review
Strange, Disjointed, Unfocused, Tedious Book that is more about Spassky than Fischer
Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2008
I was pretty excited about buying this book, because who wouldn't want a book about how one man stood up to a Superpower at the height of the Cold War and won?
But then, when you get into it, the book becomes more of a breakdown of the Fischer/Spassky match, only one written for non-chess players. Apparently most all of the story comes from interviews and the recollections and memos of the participants
The problem with that is that they couldn't get an interview with Fischer, and the book shows it. In terms of pages, "Bobby Fischer Goes to War" is 40% about Spassky, 20% about chess, 30% about the reporters or other GMs at the match or whatever, and maybe 10% about Bobby Fischer. Which would be fine if it wasn't put out there as a book about Bobby Fischer, but it was and its not that at all
Written by 2 co-authors and apparently not edited at all, the book meanders from place to place and anecdote to anecdote, and the last 100 pages are intolerably slow. They cover the post-mortem of the match; what went wrong and where the participants ended up. The main problem with that, again, is maybe 10 of those 100 pages are about Fischer. I mean, its really great to know that some Soviet minister of whatever retired and had a good life, but to my mind the book is crippled by long detours into side characters' lives, and I think the authors only indulged in those detours because they had next to no information about Bobby, so they had to talk about something to run up the page count
The first half of the book is interesting and relatively fast-paced, and actually does illuminate the Spassky/Fischer match, even if it doesn't offer any actual insights into Bobby Fischer, beyond what some people who met him once or twice think of him. The second half is just a re-hash of things already stated, and a "where are they now?" type piece on each of the officials of the various organizations who put the match together
So to sum up: this book is basically just a story about that historic match up, and its more told from Spassky's side than anyone else's. If that's what you want, great. Here it is. If you wanted a book about Bobby Fischer, about any part of his life other than those few months in Iceland, you won't find it here. If you wanted his insight into the matches, or analysis of the matches, that's not here either
Also, you should be warned that the story is told about 75% from the Soviet side of things, so there are alot of Russian names and governmental titles. That might bother some readers; I found it difficult after awhile to differentiate between the various Russian officials, especially since some are referred to by nicknames at one point, then by their given names, then by title, etc.
Hope that helps you make an informed decision on whether or not to buy the book