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Intelligence: A Novel of the CIA

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  280 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews

A team of Intelligence agents try to prevent an impending terrorist attack, but are thwarted by bureaucratic hurdles in this darkly humorous debut written by a former CIA agent

Maddie James and her colleagues are terrorism experts working in a crumbling intelligence agency. They are certain another big terrorist attack is coming, but in a post-9/11 election year the
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Imagine if James Bond lost his license to kill and had to go work at the company in Office Space. “Yeah, hi. James? I’m going to need you to pack up all your guns and spy thingamajigs and your martini shakers and move that all down to the basement. If you could do that, it’d be great. Thanks.”

According to the introduction on the audio version of this book, Susan Hasler worked for the CIA. for over twenty years, and she was on the team that wrote up the infamous warning paper about Bin Laden bein
Jul 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Maddie James is a CIA intelligence analyst. She and her co-workers bury themselves in windowless rooms collating, analyzing, and interpreting government gleaned information. They spend long hours searching for who is planning the next terrorist attack and where it will happen. Terrorism is a serious topic but Hasler manages to include lots of humor through her characters and their interaction. They come are alive and ring true as does the craziness of political posturing. They aren’t merely type ...more
Mal Warwick
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Can the CIA really be as clumsy and ineffectual as Susan Hasler portrays it in Intelligence? The dysfunctional agency she dramatizes is a bureaucracy tied up in knots, some of them of its own making, some handed down from a White House bent on pursuing its own aggressive strategy regardless of whether it's justified by the facts. Granted, the CIA Hasler paints is that of the George W. Bush Administration, five years after 9/11. And we all know what that was like. But can we be confident that tod ...more
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
I heard about this book on NPR, and it sounded interesting. Susan Hasler worked as a counter-terrorism analyst at the CIA for over two decades, and the NPR interview discussed some interesting topics like intelligence failures. So I requested the book from my local library and started it with some modestly high expectations. And while certain aspects of the book were illuminating and occasionally entertaining, Intelligence was a disappointment for me.

The basic story of Intelligence follows an an
Nov 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fedgov employees
Susan Hasler is a very bitter ex-CIA employee. She lays out her agenda in the foreword of this novel: she felt the Bush Administration ignored intelligence, concocted their own story, and turned the CIA into political apparatchiks in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in order to engineer an unnecessary war with Iraq.

Whether you agree with her assessment or not, Intelligence is a sharp, sometimes funny book but one in which the author doesn't even try to be subtle about her axe-grinding. As a veteran
Aug 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tops, 2010-reads
PROTAGONIST: Maddie James, counterterrorism expert
SETTING: Washington, DC
RATING: 4.75

Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the American intelligence community has been increasingly vigilant about reviewing information in order to thwart any future attacks before they occur. The amount of data that is scrutinized is mind boggling. The agents working on this detail review thousands of communications looking for the elusive clue that indicates trouble ahead. It’s rea
Aug 26, 2010 rated it liked it
As I was reading this debut novel, I kept thinking to myself: This author sure can write! The descriptions, the prose, and the dialogue were all beautifully written. I found myself laughing out loud at the numerous hilarious scenes. I read this book quickly and enjoyed it.

Normally I don't like books that break up the stream of thought into different first-person chapters, but it worked in this novel simply because the characters were all so well portrayed. They had very distinct personalities a
Angie Boyter
Mar 02, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Author Susan Hasler spent 21 years working for the CIA and knows what it is like to toil in an intelligence agency. I was keen to read this book, hoping for a good thriller that also paints a realistic picture of what life is like at the nation's best-known spy agency. The writing in Intelligence is a bit self-consciously "cute", but I might have been able to tolerate that in an otherwise enjoyable book. However, Ms.Hasler was clearly presenting such an inaccurate picture of CIA employees that s ...more
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Smart, funny, scary novel written by a long-time CIA employee about a group of counter-terrorism analysts trying to thwart an attack that only they seem to believe in. Frequent allusions to past and present events along with sharp observations on the inner workings of the federal government ring all too true.
Gabe Austin
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not a great story. Not very good characters. Couldn't wait to finish this so I could move to the next one.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 3+ star book, almost as if Kafka and Douglas Adams wrote a novel about the CIA at Joseph Heller's place.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Intelligent, witty, and on point with the message.
Oct 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
10 hrs and 27 mins

Narrated by Susan Hasler (introduction) , Joe Barrett , Rachel Butera , Catlin Davies , Terry Donnolly , Peter Ganim , L J Ganser , Gayle Hendrix , Bryan Kennedy , Ken Kliban

Publisher's Summary

A team of intelligence agents tries to prevent an impending terrorist attack, but is thwarted by bureaucratic hurdles in this darkly humorous debut by former CIA agent Susan Hasler.
Maddie James and her colleagues are terrorism experts working in a crumbling intelligence agency. They are c
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Hasler's novel depicts a sub culture of CIA characters inside the setting of Washington DC CIA Think Tank work environment. There is something to be gleaned from her days as an analyst during the Cold War period compared to today's war on terror. The book was vetted before publication to ensure that no secrets were given away as a book of fiction relevant to today's Homeland Security efforts with secret information gathering and dissemination. Hasler's novel compares well with other writers who ...more
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first, this story wasn't grabbing me, but as it progressed, I became more ad more hooked into what was going on.
I hadn't realized that the book was supposed to be a satire, but I could see the dark comedy that was in it, along the lines of Catch 22 and M*A*S*H. But then I could see the not-so-humorous side of it, and the near-confession of, "Yes, there was a cover-up at the highest levels, but there was nothing we in the lower levels could do about it."

The only thing that the audiobook lacks
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spy-thriller
Wasn't sure I was going to keep reading at first but before I knew it I was drawn in by Maddie, Doc, Vivian, Fran and Vernon. But the character that affected me most was 'a voice with many names'.

The race against time to figure out the terrorists target plays out against Maddie and her co-workers having to fight those above them every inch of the way as Maddie's theory doesn't conform with what the policymakers want and that is war with Iran.

'A voice with many names' chapters are chilling in the
Sep 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found this book on a display at the library. It sounded interesting, and it was. Written by a former CIA insider, I trust the authenticity of the situation, methods, and attitudes of the characters who work in the anti-terrorist arm of the CIA. The dialog is crisp and witty. Eight years later, the agents are all still stunned and feeling guilty about not being able to prevent the attacks of 9/11, and are desperate to correctly interpret the "intelligence" data pouring in. Their frustration at ...more
Rick Edwards
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
A good read, with passages of brilliant humor. CIA employees can't do much with memoirs, but this novel gives you a pretty good feel for what one imagines to be the bureaucratic lunacy that makes the emergence of helpful intelligence almost a miracle. Hasler worked there for 21 years. She offers the reader a jaundiced perspective on the bureaucracy combined with believable and often hilarious characterizations. There would seem to be great variety among those mining for useful nuggets in the cav ...more
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I really enjoyed Susan Hasler's book. Any close look at the cover that shows the eagle on the CIA seal with rabbit ears should give even the densest reader a clear indication that it is a riff--partly good natured and partly bitter.

The strength of the novel is not so much its plot. It is merely a fictional retelling of how intelligence can be distorted to advance a policy end.

For me what I really liked were her characters. I am not usually a fan of novels with character portraits but this was an
Paul Wilson
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Entertaining but tonally inconsistent book. The book's main characters are each represented in first-person chapters, which gets rather strange with the unit's dead former boss deploring the state of his current unit. As a former CIA agent, Hasler obviously had bones to pick, especially with the higher ups and their reactions to 9/11 and the lead up to the Iraq War, which makes the book come off as overly preachy sometimes. Then again, maybe those failures deserve preachy admonishments. But it i ...more
Aug 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This novel has been billed as a thriller, but that's not strictly true. It lacks the cloak-and-dagger dash around the world that most in the genre display. Instead, the book is a very comical whirl through the minds of frustrated CIA analysts in the wake of 9/11. I'm sure it will be compared to Joseph Heller, but to be perfectly honest I enjoyed this book a lot more than Catch-22.
Never fear-- the book has plenty of plot, like a thriller would. But much of the intrigue comes from the often ridic
Adam Shields
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Full review at

Short review: It is a novel about CIA counter terrorism analysts by a CIA counter terrorism analyst that quit in 2005. It is well written and really carries the weight of finding the potential terrorist attacks.

The story format is multiple first person narrative and told in these short vignettes. It works well for giving good characterization and creating pressure. I thought the ending was a bit too neat, but other than that it was very goo
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
Intelligence was written by a former CIA analyst/speechwriter about a fictional CIA analyst and her team trying and failing to foil a terrorist attack, and the fallout that results. Not being a CIA employee, I can't speak to its authenticity, but it seems very true to me of corporate politics at the very least. It won't surprise a lot of people to know that the worker-bees are the ones who get the blame. The story was interesting although the use of a lot of jargon made it a little difficult to ...more
Mary Robinson
Aug 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fun, edgy
Liked this fast-paced CIA thriller written by a former agent. The author does have a political point of view as she has her team of counterterrorist analysts battling an administration that needs data interpreted a certain way to use as ammunition to justify a war. Main character is fast and funny Maddie James who is heartbroken and beaten up by 9/11 but still has some fight in her as she battles a government conspiracy that could be even worse.

Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent look inside CIA intelligence gather and political policy-"Of course, if you think the invasion of Iraq was necessary, even wise, you'll hate this novel. But if you think it was a tragedy brought about by top-level arrogance and deceit, you'll probably savor Hasler's bitter comedy. It's a very funny book about a deeply unfunny slice of recent history. Read it and weep -- but you'll be laughing too."-
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, read2015, reviewed
This is a refreshing look at the CIA. It touches on a number of things I think people might suspect about the agency but don't really want to face. So much of it rang true to me that I even got that mild panic-attack feeling I get when I think about my husband's gov't job too much.

I enjoyed the humor and the bit of romance, too. The characters were well-developed and the story moved along at a good pace.

I definitely look forward to reading more of Hasler's books.
Dec 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. Although it is a fiction, but there is nothing fictitious about how organizations behave, whether it be government or large corporations. Reckless decisions are made by higher ups with zero accountability, and all the blame goes to those with sincere intentions. I wouldn't be surprised if there is more truth in this book than fiction. It is a very interesting read, and would love to read more from this author (no other major book out yet)
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
She couldn't write nonfiction, so she did the next best thing. She retired after almost 25 years at the agency as an alchemist. I love the job title. It takes a lot to work there... and Susan Hasler crafts a highly interesting novel that allows a crack into a window into that "place" I drive by daily. Now that there is such a turf war in the intelligence field, it makes you wonder what has happened in the years since her departure.
Janice Lierz
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a story. An alien with a razor-sharp wit and a team of CIA oddballs—we’re back in the 60’s where the CIA decides to run drug tests on our extraterrestrial protagonist. The story is smart and funny, leaving me wondering how much of it was true. What if? I was fascinated and captivated. A good read!
Aug 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Entertaining book. Supporters of the Iraq war will dislike the premise of the intelligence community's complicity in making a case for war. That aside, I am intrigued by the idea of CIA analysts slogging through and pouring over the sheer volume of data and trying to come up with plausible terrorist threats. Quite fascinating!
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Susan Hasler grew up in rural Virginia surrounded by pets of all description. She earned degrees in Russian language and literature from the University of Virginia and the University of California, Berkeley. She spent 21 years at the Central Intelligence Agency working in various jobs from Soviet analyst to speechwriter for the Director of Central Intelligence. She worked in the Counterterrorism C ...more
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