“The AK-47, or ‘Kalashnikov’, is the most abundant and efficient firearm on earth. It is so light it can be used by children. It has transformed the way we fight wars, and its story is the chilling story of modern warfare.
C. J. Chivers’s extraordinary new book tells an alternative history of the world as seen through these terrible weapons. He traces them back to their origins in the early experiments of Gatling and Maxim, and examines the first appearance of the machine-gun – a weapon that first created the ‘asymmetric’ colonial massacres enjoyed by the British in Africa but which then created the nightmarish stalemate of the First World War. The quest for ever greater firepower and mobility culminated in the AK-47 at the beginning of the Cold War, designed by a Red Army tank commander and poet; a weapon so remarkable that, over sixty years after its invention and having broken free of all state control, it has become central to civil wars all over the world. The machine-gun reused many innovations associated with the new agricultural technology of its time (as did the tank), and there is perhaps no better example of how so much of the modern era has turned on the awful ambiguity at the heart of human inventiveness.
Drawing on a huge amount of fascinating and original research, The Gun is the story of modern violence: its inventors, its users and its victims. It is a book of eccentrics, sadists, obsessives, but also of the countless individual soldiers, terrorists and militiamen whose lives have been transformed by the inventive mind of Sergeant Kalashnikov.”
AK-47 rifle pp. 481, illusts #080522