Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen
I know what you are thinking – another book about UFOs and aliens. Although this book does cover the crash at Roswell, there are no aliens there. Most of this book is really about the clandestine activities of the CIA and Military; including the nuclear testing, our use of Nazi scientists, and our spy planes (U2, Oxcart/SR-71 Blackbird, etc).
Most of the book’s claims are preceded by ” Declassified in …” Whether they are legit or not, I have no way of telling. Most of the detailed history in this book takes place before 1968 mainly due to the previously classified nature of the material.
The author did a good job of turning what could have been a dry history into an interesting story by making characters of the historical figures. I liked how she did not linger too long on any one area of the history.
Spoiler highlight to read
This book seemed very believable up until the end, when she dove more into the Roswell incident. The author had almost of no real citation other than an unnamed source. The unnamed source said that the UFO was Russian-made and piloted by genetically and surgically malformed children with the help of Joesph Mengele. He also claimed that is was all a plot by the Soviet Union to spook us into thing that aliens where invading so they could use it as a cover to attack us. It was disappointing that the author waited until the end to spring this nasty surprise on the reader.
The only part of this book that was worse than the spoiler mentioned above is the narration. It is read by the author. While most of the time I find this great, this was time is was 15 hours of torture. Her reading was in the very 80s style of narration, when there was no inflection or character performance. It it was worst narration I have the “pleasure” of listening to in a very long time.
Story gets 6.5 out of 10 (would have been better if not for the ending)
Narration gets 3 out of 10
My next book will be Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs
The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry is the second book in the Joe Ledger trilogy. Unlike the frist book, there are no zombies. Yes, I know, I was disappointed too.
This trilogy revolves around Joe Ledger, an agent for the top-secret Department of Military Science (DMS). On a mission to stop threats to the US and the world, at the heart of the DMS is man that goes by many names and his super computer, Mindreader.
First off let me say this book is not going to win a Phillip K. Dick award or Nebula award. It Is a modern day pulp chalked full of violence, sex and pseudoscience. That said, it really was not a bad book. Though there wasn’t a lot of depth, it was a very enjoyable read.
The big threat this time is white supremacist geneticist with a mysterious past who is planning to wipe out everyone that is not white using weaponized genetic diseases that are targeted to ethnic groups.
The biggest problem with the book is that every chapter has the time stamp until the killer virus is released. The reason this becomes a problem is during the fight scenes chapters can be only a few sentences. While this may not be a problem in the print version, it is annoying in the audiobook.
Ray Porter narrated this book. It was an adequate performance, but did not really add anything to the book. The only place the narration really suffered was in the Russian accents.
Story gets 8.5 out of 10
Narration gets 6 out of 10
You can get this book at Amazon and Audible.
My next book will be The Life of Pi By Yann Martel
Sorry About the delay on a Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is is still coming.
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Narrated by John Bedford Lloyd
My boss was kind enough to give this book to everyone in my office so I felt obligated to read it. The premise is that checklists save lives and can help you live better. There is an extremely positive quote fromMalcolm Gladwellon the cover and I wish I could say that I enjoyed it as much as he claimed to have enjoyed it.
The Checklist Manifesto’s six hours of run time was hard to get through. The problem was this book felt more like a magazine article that was stretched into a book. As a magazine article, I probably would have taken understood the author’s point and maybe even enjoyed the read. As a book, it seemed like it would never end.
The author is a doctor and gave plenty of good examples of how the premise is useful in his field, but I would have liked to have seen more examples of how it works in other fields and everyday life. My other big gripe was with just how much of the book is describing surgeries in great detail. I did not enjoy that imagery and it just felt like he was padding the book.
Well after over 36 months with 40 to 60 hours a week of use, my iPod has died. I am switching to my iPhone. So far the iPhone battery is holding up ok. But, I still really miss my iPod classic.
The WWW trilogy is nice transition from my previous book, Plex. Although this was a trilogy, it seemed more like one book in three parts rather than three different books. I have to admit that I have only listened to one other Robert J. Sawyer book, Fast Forward, which I found to be so dry and slow I almost did not finish it.
The main human character in these books is Caitlin Decter, a blind 16-year-old girl who is a bit of a math genius. About the only thing Caitlin does better than math is surfing the web. Early into the first book she is invited to Japan to receive an experimental retinal implant. This implant co-opts the vision center of her brain to allow her to see the structure of the web. This is how she first encounters a fledgling emergent artificially intelligent entity.
This AI grows and becomes known to the world as WebMind, which is essentially a sentient version of Google. What follows is the struggle of society to embrace and integrate this world-changing technology.
The story flows at a nice pace and only stalls in a few places, which I found to be a nice change from the other Sawyer work I read. While it did not keep me guessing at every turn it was not too predictable either.
One criticism – I wish Sawyer would have cut off the last few pages of the last book. I found them a little too hokey.
At the heart is these books is the idea of transition and growth, whether that be a 16-year-old blind girl getting her site or an AI emerging from the whole of the World Wide Web.
Narrated by Jessica Almasy, Marc Vietor, Oliver Wyman, Anthony Haden Salerno, and A. C. Fellner, Audible produced this book and gave it an Ender’s Game-style narration. Each chapter of the book is written from one character’s POV and get its own narrator. All of the narrators did a great job. I love the way that Caitlin’s narrator gave her a slight southern twang without it being over the top, This goes for all the accents in the book which takes place mostly in Canada. There is also an intro to the first book by Sawyer himself, which is nice.
Story: 8 of 10
Narration: 10 of 10
These book are available at Amazon WWW: Wake, WWW: Watch, and WWW: Wonder and Audible WWW: Wake, WWW: Watch, and WWW: Wonder
My next book will be The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
Narrated by Sorcha Cusack, Meat is one of the most disturbing books I have listened to in a long time. This book was suggested to me by Audible due to my love of zombie books. Clocking in at 10.5 hours, Meat follows Abyrne, a small town in the middle of the wasteland. Abyrne is run by two factions, a religious institution that holds meat sacred and the factory farm which slaughters it. You quickly find out that there is something very wrong with the where the “Meat” is coming from. I know this book’s premise promotes vegetarianism, but I did not find it too preachy.
As for the narration – it was great. Sorcha Cusack has a great range in her voice and she really brings this book to life. She does have a subtle British accent, which I find a bit odd. Even though the book never says it takes place in the USA, I always imagined it playing out in the midwest.
Story gets 8 out of 10
Narration gets 7 out of 10
This book is available at Audible and Amazon
My next is book is Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy, Narrated by L. J. Ganser