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Monday, May 11, 2015

Review Roundup -- ISIS: The State of Terror

Here's a roundup of reviews for ISIS: The State of Terror, the new book by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, on sale everywhere: 

Washington Post: "Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... Stern and Berger offer a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group."

Literary Review: "Stern and Berger draw on internet-based sources, big-brained research on political violence and some of the most acute thinking about the insurgency that is around today. ... Stern and Berger's book is packed with useful insights and also seeks to explain the different aspects of ISIS."

Salon: "Understanding ISIS, who it appeals to and why, as well as how it sees itself, isn't something we're supposed to do. One purpose of ISIS' savagery is to make us react without thinking, to compel us to view the world as it does, as a stark conflict between good and evil demanding immediate, dramatic action. In that light, consider 'ISIS: The State of Terror,' a profound act of counterterrorism."

The Telegraph: "Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger have produced a clear and succinct account of the rise of the fanatics... This book's achievement is to demonstrate how ISIS fits within the spectrum of blood-soaked jihadism."

Evening Standard: "One can only conclude, with the clarity of recent hindsight, that we should have seen it coming -- at least when seen through the lens of ISIS: The State of Terror, a new history of the threat by US academics Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger. ... a timely and important history of a movement that now defines the 21st century."

Prospect: "Perhaps the most interesting comparison to make is between IS and apocalyptic cults. Stern and Berger cite the examples of Heaven's Gate and the Branch Davidians, whose members attempted, or were pressured into, mass suicide on the basis that the end was nigh. THe eschatology of IS has found fertile soil."

Backbench: "Stern and Berger have made a valuable contribution to the discourse surrounding ISIS and I highly recommend their new book, which is equally accessible to both the academic and more casual reader with an interest in Middle Eastern affairs."

Prospect Magazine: "...the heart of their book is about the technology and psychology of IS. They ... break down the illusion of novelty, by situating the militants' sadistic tactics, apocalyptic ideas and social media dexterity in the context of other violent extremist groups. This may not be consolatory, but it is clarifying."

New York Times: "The authors do nimble jobs of turning their copious research and their own expertise on terrorism into coherent, accessible narratives that leave us with an understanding of the Islamic State's history and metastasis, and its modus operandi. ... The most compelling sections of the Stern-Berger book are devoted to comparing ISIS and Al Qaeda. ... The authors describe Al Qaeda as an exclusive 'vanguard movement,' a 'cabal that saw itself as the elite intellectual leaders of a global ideological revolution that it would assist and manipulate.' ... ISIS, in contrast, is more of a populist start-up operation."

Pragati: "Jessica Stern’s earlier book, Terror in the Name of God, was notable for her in person research with terrorists from around the globe, and JM Berger, whose book Jihad Joe is the definitive account of American recruits to Al-Qaeda. Together, they have a formidable insight into the motivations and means of the Islamic State –- motives and means which we will still need to face, even if IS itself goes into decline.

The Independent (Ireland): " engrossing book in which two scholars of Islamic terrorism describe the rise of a formidable jihadi movement... The jihadis are master propagandists, and the authors' description of the workings of the ISIS publicity machine is one of the strongest parts of a book full of insights... illuminating..."

Kirkus Reviews: "A detailed study of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from its rise out of al-Qaida to its intended fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecies. ... this book offers much to learn about ISIS and an expanded understanding of current events."

Mick Endsor: "ISIS: The State of Terror is a brilliant analysis of a group that, in a matter of years, has gone from the verge of extinction to one of the single greatest threats to peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond. Many more pages will undoubtedly be written on ISIS in the coming years but Stern and Berger have set the standard here."

The Malaysian Reserve: "The book expertly focuses on the timelines and events that led to ISIS as well as the people within the organisation... A serious in-depth look into ISIS that doesn't feel as if it's just another Western 'liberal' propaganda. A must read, especially for those living in Muslim countries whether you're a Muslim or not."

New York Times: "[Stern and Berger] dissect the Islamic State's messaging in some detail, showing how the cruelty is aimed at recruiting a very specific demographic, 'angry, maladjusted young men' attracted to a total war against unbelief. ... The authors contrast the Islamic State's messaging with Al Qaeda's, and show why ISIS has ultimately been more successful."

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam

Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



Tweets referencing this post:



", granular analysis..."

ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

More on ISIS: The State of Terror

"...a timely warning..."

Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
"At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

More on Jihad Joe


INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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