January 26, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Care to imagine what James Bond might realistically be doing today? According to Spooked, he’d probably be chasing paper instead of bad guys; the book maintains that the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall forced many secret agents to turn to corporate espionage. The authors paint a chilling picture of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals and the billion-dollar industry they sustain, but their prose often reads like an annual board-meeting report. For a more compelling analysis of secrecy in the post-007 era, turn to Crypto, which showcases the scientists who, driven by hubris, hunger, and plenty of paranoia, smashed the government’s monopoly on code use, or cryptography. Levy’s history of the origins of the National Security Agency is a fascinating tale of intrigue that never sinks into technobabble. Spooked: B- Crypto: B+

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