On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
The Information is stunning and vastly important - one of the first popular accounts of information theory, and by James Gleick, who famously introduced the world to chaos theory a decade or two ago. This is a detailed tour from the invention of language to the information era, concentrating primarily on what information means, as well as how it is encoded and manipulated - as words, telegraph messages, hidden codes, or mathematics. The hero of the work is Claude Shannon, famous for writing the most important master's thesis ever written, and the consequences and meaning of the information theory he invented. Occasionally lyrical and constantly thought provoking, this book is excellent, and the reader is precise, clear, and makes even dry text interesting.
So why four stars? I have listened to something like 200 audio books, and this is one of the few that, despite great reading and great content, suffers from not being on the printed page. There are equations ("B sub r dagger dagger A inverted r") and tables of numbers in the text, and even the wonderful job the reader does can't make these intelligible, though he does try. It doesn't destroy the work, by any means, and is still very enjoyable and intriguing, but there are some difficult or plain useless passages as a result (ironic, given a book on encoding information, that the encoding method here is so inefficient). Also, this book requires concentration, not playing in the background, so take that into account.
I am going to be recommending this book to everyone, so don't hesitate to buy it on Audible, but, if you really want to get deep into the details and numbers, you are going to need a printed copy as well.
This is an excellent, thoughtful, and very listenable book on conspiracy theories from the most skeptical of viewpoints. The book delves deeply into the deaths of JFK, Marilyn Monroe, and Princess Diana, as well as the show trials of Stalinist Russia, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, 9/11 conspiracies, and even the recent "birther" conspiracies. Each conspiracy is completely rejected, though the level of detail devoted to each debunking varies. If you are of an "anti-conspiratorial" bent, this book will appeal to you greatly, and the analysis at the end about the nature of conspiracy theories is thoughtful and well-articulated.
A couple of flaws prevent this from being a five star review. First, the book suffers a bit from the eternal problem of debunkers, to fight crazy conspiracies, you need to stoop to their level a bit, which can occasionally seem either petty, or overly drawn out. The book also drags a bit in the middle, as it covers a lot of ground, and moving from JFK to Marilyn to RFK to Princess Diana, topics that, for me at least, weren't as interesting. Finally, the reader is odd - the main narrative is great, but he does various "voices" for people like FDR or the Queen, which are not quite imitations, and thus are a bit jarring.
And, as an additional note, if you believe in any of the above conspiracies, this book will likely make your blood boil. Take that how you will.
Overall, however, this is an excellent, reasonably quick and generally entertaining tour of conspiracy debunking.
Command and Control was excellent, if occasionally chilling, listening. The book takes the form of a thriller - flashing back between an accident at a missile silo in Arkansas in 1980, and the history of the control of American nuclear weapons. The thriller becomes a bit of a horror show as Schlosser shows how often disaster was narrowly averted, and the potential consequences of a catastrophic accident. There are many mind-boggling facts along the way: the Davy Crockett nuclear anti-tank rocket had a blast radius as large as its range, the military occasionally classified things so highly the president couldn't see them, and there were many occasions where a nuclear war nearly happened.
The evolution of the Damascus Accident is especially well-written, as is the story of the evolution of nuclear strategy and command. As one reviewer in the LA Times pointed out, Schlosser is decidedly liberal, but the heroes of the book (such as they are) are McNamara and Reagan, who actually tame the nuclear beast, at least for a while. Similarly, there are great explanations of the development of the atomic bomb, and the technical details involved.
There are only a few weaknesses. First, the emphasis on bomb safety and the final parts of the Damascus Accident drag a bit, making the last third of the book somewhat less pointed and novel than the terrific first part. Second, the book seems to lose steam after Reagan, barely giving any time to the post-Cold War situation, or to other countries. While this isn't necessarily bad, it means that we spend most of the book in increasingly high levels of concern, and are left without either a lot of discussion over how to reach a safer world, or a clear sense of what the nuclear system looks like today.
In any case, this is a great read for fans of nonfiction and history, as it covers a huge amount of ground. And the final sentence is absolutely chilling and revelatory.