The concept for Thomas Bass's Censorship in Vietnam: Brave New World is refreshingly creative. Bass, the author of a well-regarded biography of Phạm Xuân Ẩn, the famous wartime double agent, takes advantage of the pending publication of that book in Vietnamese to travel to Vietnam and interrogate his censors. Through these interactions, Bass promises to dissect how censorship in Vietnam works through the window of a publication that he knows intimately. This is an important mission. Censorship is pervasive in Vietnam, and Bass is correct to argue that it impedes innovation and development. He imaginatively describes his research plan in the preface: “I decided to conduct an experiment. I would wire the book like a literary seismometer. I would mine the publishing contract with trip switches guaranteeing that I was notified at every move of the censor's pen” (p. ix).

Unfortunately, the book disappoints dramatically on its significant promise. While...

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