I found this book most interesting when it went into details about the making of Pixar's best films. Most of the specifics are about Toy Story, and the other films unfortunately get much less time. Most of the book is about how the company got started and stayed afloat and it's partnership with Disney, which will be of most interest to those curious about the 3D, tech, and film industries. But mercifully it does not get bogged down with excessive details about business deals and court proceedings like some company biographies do, so it moves along and remains entertaining throughout.
Computer graphics enthusiasts may not learn many tricks of the trade from this book, but it does get specific about who invented and developed a lot of the modeling, shading, and lighting techniques that we still use today. So it was more technical than I expected. Though it does emphasize the importance of story over technical achievement, which is a key aspect of Pixar's success.
David Drummond is a narrator I enjoy and he was part of the reason I bought this book. He did an excellent job.
I was sucked into this book and listened to it fairly quickly, so it didn't disappoint at all. But it's important for game fans to go in knowing that this is really a book about the game companies and their battles for the market. It does offer many neat tidbits about individual games and their creators, but most of the time is devoted to why each game or console succeeded or failed. It does a good job of explaining why one format or another may have done poorly due to supply issues, game quality, release times, pricing, etc. So it helps give you a sense of why the history turned out the way it did.
After an initial section on coin-op games, I'd estimate that 35% of the book is devoted to Atari. Considering the generous 22 hour total length of the book, this Atari section could have been a book in itself. I live in Sunnyvale where the company was located, so this was fascinating local history for me. Then it covers the gaming "crash" of 83/84, followed by the later resurgence with Nintendo, Sega and then Sony. Much of this later section gets a bit bogged down by discussions of legal battles between the companies. Also worth noting is that the book was published in 2001 so it barely covers the release of the Ps2, Xbox, and Gamecube.
At times the author has a tendency to make a statement followed by a quote that repeats almost the same statement, which made it seem occasionally redundant. He relies heavily on quotes, so this habit rears its head often. His writing style doesn't add a whole lot of color to the story, so it can be a bit dry. I wasn't really left feeling like I was hearing a nostalgic story about a past era, but rather a chronicle of industry history. However, it's an interesting history and a fun topic, so it was still a very enjoyable read.
This book is especially exciting for folks like myself, since The Beatles have always been my favorite band and I'm a recording engineer and singer/songwriter. I was engrossed in the tales of how Emerick and his coworkers recorded certain songs, and I learned many unexpected things about the personalities and abilities of the members of the group. Many in the music world worship not only the songwriting and musicianship of the band, but also the sound quality and innovation of their recordings. So learning more about the recording sessions firsthand is a real pleasure. The narrator was quite good... though I found his Liverpool accents a bit cartoonish, and he made all the Beatles sound the same. I tend to prefer narrators who don't try to imitate people's voices (unless they have a profound talent for it).
Emerick seems to be a great admirer of McCartney, and they have apparently been friends since the band's breakup. I'm not sure if this made him biased, but he clearly portrays Paul as the nicest person and most musically gifted and dedicated in the group. This didn't bother me, since Paul has always been my favorite Beatle and his talents were sometimes overshadowed by the dynamic personality and tragic death of Lennon. I appreciated his candor when discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the band members.
A great companion book for recording geeks is Recording the Beatles, though that is not available as an audiobook and is far more technical in nature.
I bought this based on the other positive reviews and the fact that I'd enjoyed a book with a similar concept (It's All About the Bike, by Robert Penn). Being a long-time guitar player I hoped it would be enjoyable and informative. But I found myself struggling to make it through even the first half. It switches back and forth between the author looking over the shoulder of guitar maker Rick Davis as he builds his custom guitar, and mostly boring stories about the history of the instrument and of music in general. Some tangents such as the emergence of radio seemed to stray off topic and ramble. The author comes across a tad snooty at times, which is not helped by the narrator's slightly whiny voice. One example is a brief chapter about how terrible the cheap guitars are that they sell at Walmart. I agree, but not everyone can spend thousands on a handmade work of art, so his disdainful comments end up sounding a bit elitist.
It did make me think about the guitar's place in music. Especially about how the low volume of the instrument really affected its place in bands before the advent of electric guitars. I'll probably attempt to listen to the second half in the future, but for now I'm moving on to other selections in my library.
I got increasingly engrossed in this story until I didn't want to stop listening. It's suspenseful and intricate, and the amazing level of detail added authenticity. Sometimes when authors offer incredible detail of past events I become suspicious that they're filling in gaps in their memory by just inventing things. But I never got that sense in this book. Mitnick not only has an astounding memory and ability to recount these tales, but also had access to documentation to help fill in facts he may not remember fully.
At first I was disappointed that it was not so much about technical hacking as much as "social engineering" (mostly lying to people over the phone). Though he's highly technically proficient, his main weapon is an ability to convince people to give him their passwords or otherwise grant him access to sensitive systems by pretending to be a fellow employee. But as the story went on he got more into the technical details (mostly related to phone system switches and computers), and I was fully sucked in. His explanations of how he spied on the people spying on him, or unveiled the true identities of undercover informants, are not only impressive but suspenseful as well. And since he was never hacking for financial gain or to damage anything, I enjoyed rooting for him despite the nuisance he caused.
He also manages to recount all these stories without sounding overly braggadocious or cocky, which is not an easy feat. His techniques are extremely clever, even if they didn't always prevent him from being caught. Though his string of legal issues seems to spring from his lack of willpower to stop hacking rather than a carelessness to cover his tracks.
I also loved Ray Porter's narration and look forward to listening to other books from him.
Absolutely. I loved Jesse Boggs' narration, and I always enjoy Michael Lewis' way of telling a story and profiling his subjects. I could see listening again in a couple of years when I've forgotten most of the details.
Like he did in Moneyball, Lewis shows how an outlier's view of statistics and probability can lead to great success. It's fun because you know they were right, yet everyone thinks they're being foolish.
It made me angry at many points, because you're exposed to the carelessness and greed of so many people in the financial world. Of course it's easier to criticize in retrospect after seing the outcome of the 2008 mortgage crisis, but this wasn't just people betting that home prices would keep rising. The laundering techniques used to cleanse risky mortgage bonds to get them rated AAA when they were really BBB were particularly shocking. I was also frustrated to hear about Mike Burry and how his hedge fund investors doubted him despite his brilliance. But it's very satisfying overall because you know what's coming and who will be proven right.
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