Michael Dobbs' re-examination of the Cuban missile crisis gets beyond the mythology surrounding Kennedy and Krushchev's 1962 confrontation. He reveals how dangerously wrong leaders in Washington and Moscow sometimes were about one another, and how events were sometimes driven by bit players rather than premiers and presidents. A confused U2 pilot veers dangerously off-course, provoking Soviet air defenses. Another U2 is shot down over Cuba on the orders of a local Soviet commander. CIA-backed saboteurs continue to act on the island. An exhausted, angry Soviet sub captain contemplates launching a nuclear torpedo against American blockade ships. U.S. generals demand an invasion of Cuba. Soviet forces on the island deploy tactical nuclear weapons for just such an eventuality. In an act of what could at best be described as extreme brinkmanship, Cuban leaders advocate a nuclear first strike on the U.S. Messages between the superpower capitals move at a snail's pace--via telegraph, courier, and translator--and are frequently misunderstood. On both sides, nuclear command and control often turns out to be more theoretical than real. You come away with the sense that we're all extremely lucky that 1962's superpower crisis didn't in fact escalate further, faster, and that people on both sides had the sense to back down before events completely escaped their control.