During the time I read this, my mental image of how many stars I'd give it began at four as our writer relates his unusual induction into the CIA, and his early exciting years in India, then impossibly bogged down somewhere after Beruit, a star sadly limped off, legs broken at the sheer weight it's masters asked it to carry. Also at this point, a madness befitting a certain sea captain's obsession with a certain white sea-mammal begins break the surface of dark waters...but that's for later... Then stationed in some very out of the way Soviet border countries, and Northern Iraq, a lovely new star comes forth to make four once more. Then at the end, his little back too is broken at the wheel of Deadly Dull Democratic machinations and another sighting of the obsessive Melville streak Baer seems to have for some subjects. It limps homeward with three but could have slipped easily to 2 or 4 just as easily. That is perhaps meaningful when you consider the knife's edge of Baer's former occupation, where tedium and terror often follow one another in seemingly random intervals...but for the reader, some extra editing by Ishmael would have helped.The book's main importance for us will probably be the bitter recounting of the failures and wholesale dismemberment of the American Intelligence Community, a bitterness which is both understandable and at the same time unwelcome for the reader. The facts alone would have been MORE impactful than the charged language the author employes, just in case we were too dim to grasp it ourselves. He writes of how he had lost the ability to understand or relate to Washington when he finally returns from overseas, and that theme plays out in several other figures in the book, such as a soviet officer who having been stationed in the most forgotten place on earth, and having missed the seminal events effecting the U.S.S.R., asks if Moscow has changed much in the past eight years. I was left wondering if that time overseas made the author essentially mistrustful of his own countryman's ability to understand what he was writing without the benefit of hammering it at us repeatedly and with emotional emphasis. I did however love that where the CIA had redacted the text, he left the black lines blacking out those details. It adds a great deal somehow to the book. So I liked it, really liked it, was ok, and liked it in the end. Make of all that what you will.