The Tunnels tells the history of several escapes under the Berlin Wall and the NBC documentary The Tunnel that chronicled one of the most successful tunnel escapes. It is pure history with no fictionalized dialogue, yet it remains as suspenseful as any spy thriller, not least because it is all true.
This book is thrilling, fast-paced, and suspenseful. The action in the first chapter was so fast and furious I wondered what was left for the rest of the book. No worries, there was plenty. Replete with spycraft, secret couriers, Stasi spies and infiltrators, and the bold tunnelers, there is no shortage of heroes and villains.
Add the Cuban Missile Crisis, network competition, and some embarrassingly low behavior by CBS and there is suspense before, during, and well after the tunnel escapes. Thanks to pressure from the Kennedy Administration and an overly compliant and competitive press, NBC was vilified for pursuing the documentary of the tunnel escape and pressured into postponing its broadcast. It eventually did broadcast to critical and commercial success and the same government that tried to suppress it was airing it overseas as part of the USIA.
The Tunnels is a great success, not just in terms of telling an exciting, suspenseful story, but also of engaging readers emotionally. It is a reminder that we are not meant to build walls. I remember watching in awed surprise when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, sinking to my knees in front of the television and touching the screen, as though I had to touch it to believe it was real. I cried then and reading about it again in The Tunnels, I cried again. The Wall was such a disgrace, a scar on humanity and perhaps some of my tears came from acknowledging my own country’s eagerness to build a wall, another scar revealing some deep infection in our national bloodstream.
The Tunnels is also meticulously researched with data from Stasi files, Kennedy Administration recordings, personal papers, documents, declassified government files, and personal interviews. Everyone is real and so are the conversations. It is a book that proves that history does not need to fictionalized or dramatized to be fascinating and exciting.
Whether you love liberty or just love a great adventure, The Tunnels will be worth reading. It is useful to remember that liberty is something that needs to be claimed, not assumed, nor taken for granted.
I was provided a copy of The Tunnels through the Blogging For Books program.