Out of a concern about objectivity, I would not have bought this book if I knew beforehand that the author is a prominent left wing activist. I am very pleased to have listened to this audiobook.
The book describes the use of drones in war as killing and surveillance platforms. Considerable detail is given about the types of drones that exist or are in planning stages. Civilian use is described where drones are used or a growing number of purposes from patrolling borders to fighting forest fires.
The author then presents a long list of negative factors in the use of drones.
The chief concern is that they are proliferating at an exponential pace. Other countries and non-state entities, including terrorists, are acquiring them. The use of drones is being explored at national, state, and municipal levels.
Drones malfunction and operators are prone to error. This can lead to the killing or maiming of civilians.
Medea Benjamin devotes much of the book to legal and moral concerns associated with the use of drones. These are too numerous and complex to summarize in a review but they are well reasoned, researched, and presented. Whether you agree with Benjamin or not, you should be aware of these issues. Drones will have an increasing worldwide role in the coming years.
Although the author describes some of Tamerlane's atrocities, he is far too kind to a brutal monomaniacal warlord.
Tamerlane is estimated to have killed 17,000,000 people, about 5% of Earth's population at the time. He would have enslaved huge numbers, maimed or wounded others, and left orphans and widows.
His attacks stretched from the Levant to China. He eradicated most of the Christians from Asia. Baghdad never recovered from his sack of that city. An equal opportunity aggressor, he attacked Hindus in Delhi and other cities. To what end? He claimed to be the aligned with Allah but he slaughtered many Muslims. Personal glory, captives, plunder is a more likely motivation.
Harold Lamb is a popular writer, not a serious historian. Many of his comparisons of tactics are related to what Napoleon did. Lamb also has biographies about Hannibal, Suleiman, Alexander the Great, and Genghis Khan, all of whom waged wars of aggression.
The narration is too rapid. There are too many characters to keep track requiring rewinding. An accompanying map and chronology would have been helpful.
It should be noted that Chechnya was Tamerlane's stomping ground and that radicalized older of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers was named after Tamerlane, namely, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
There is an astonishing lack of proportion and emphasis. The communist regime killed millions of peasants. The prison system established by the communists was a source of slave labor as well as a means of suppressing dissent. The Russians dealt with minorities in a particularly bloody and brutal manner. While each of these topics is covered, it is hasty. Instead, Martin Sixsmith spends an inordinate amount of time on covering the day-to-day minutia of the USSR's downfall and his coverage of it for the BBC.
I have read his Putin's Oil which is a superior work.
This is a rebroadcast of BBC's "Russia: The Wild East, Part 2" presented in 25 episodes. Although Sixsmith is the primary narrator, there are interviews, clips from news accounts, tape recorded speeches of historical figures, quotes from poems, choirs singing in the background, etc. In many respects the historical characters speak for themselves.
There is far too much turf to cover for this to be made into a movie.
Martin Sixsmith is a BBC journalist who served in the USSR, Poland, and Washington. He was Tony Blair's Director of Communications and has written both fiction and non-fiction books. I would recommend this audiobook for someone who wants a general overview of the events of the past century. However, it does not come close to describing the full magnitude of atrocities perpetrated by the Soviet regime.
Michael Grant has written extensively about Greece and Rome and this is a summary of his larger works. It provides fundamental information about eras that continue to influence our daily lives.
In an introductory book of this nature one would expect discussion of politics and wars. Grant includes this but also spends a an impressive amount of time on the arts of the period.
Professional job of narration.
The film could only be a length documentary as the topic of the book spans over a millennium.
Audible should be providing the copious maps from the book as a download.
The author describes the roots of Rock 'n Roll from the time of Charlie Patton forward to 1960s. There is the obligatory nod to Robert Johnson. Various genres of music from blues to country to gospel have an influence on an emerging musical format. In addition to artists like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bo Diddly, Buddy Holly, there is coverage of DJ's, record producers, songwriters, and managers who are described in this account. The lecturer often indicates the influence particular musicians had on those who followed.
Any collection of articles by Lester Bangs. Audible has many biographies and autobiographies of musicians.
The author and narrator are the same and the presentation is in lecture format. The lecturer is polished and easy to follow.
A movie could probably not be made of this subject.
Audible usually provides an accompanying booklet in PDF for with a Modern Scholar title but fails to do so here.The lecturer makes some grating errors and omissions. Johnny Cash did not put tissue paper under the strings of his guitar to achieve his sound. Country music of that era did not feature drums so Cash would put regular paper under his guitar strings to mimic the snap of a snare drum. Les Paul is mentioned as a pioneer who made electric guitars and experimented with multi-track recording. However, completely unmentioned was Leo Fender who had a far greater influence. Leo Fender made the first electric bass guitars that truly give rock music its drive and its rhythm. His Stratocasters and Telecasters are used by more musicians than Les Paul guitars. Finally, Leo Fender made wonderful amplifiers to suit the needs of musicians, including the need for distortion and reverb.
I listened to this book in advance of reading Thucydides' "The Peloponnesian War".
The author presents the work in an objective manner, providing an account of what transpired and not engaging in polemics or comparing this war to others.
The story is impossible to follow without reference to maps. Just as an example, geographic place-names like Naupaktos, or Mthone, or Locris are bandied about and there is no way of knowing what the author is referring to without reference to maps. To remedy this, I borrowed Kagan's book from the library but though it has multiple maps, they are of poor quality. You are best off by following along with "The Landmark Thucydidies" by Robert Strassler. Pity that Audible did not provide a pdf file for maps and names.
The expectation of a book authored by a groupie is that it would be a salacious tell-all about sexual encounters with musicians. There is plenty of that in the book but the author is unfailingly positive and generous in her description of her amours.
There are three things that make this book a standout.
First, Pamela Des Barres can write. Although her book is based on her diaries, the book is wonderfully descriptive and witty in her unique style.
Secondly, Pamela Des Barres can narrate. This is her story and listening to the book is like having Pamela Des Barres tell her life story directly to you. Her voice modulates particularly when quoting someone and she otherwise personalizes the story for the listener.
Thirdly, Pamela Des Barres is very upbeat and happy.
This is an excellent book published before all of the Bush staffers begin to write their memoirs after his term.
W is an easy target. A biography critical of W can be piecing together by recounting endless verbal tics and the instances he is caught in a lie. This author is personally acquainted with W and says that he is far smarter, wittier, and more charming than his public persona.
The author’s premise is to cast W as Henry V in Shakespeare’s play by that name. Bush Sr. is obviously Henry IV. Henry V spends an indolent youth boozing it up with Falstaff and on accession to the throne, he attacks France, wins the Battle of Agincourt, and becomes one of England’s best loved kings.
This is obviously not how things will turn out for W and for that matter the real Henry V is castigated by historians. W’s approval ratings are in the 20% range. His legacy does not appear to promising. According to the author, W is devouring books to find a favorable comparison to political figures that were vindicated by history.
Whether or not you like W, if you are interested in the man, you should read this book.
Picture this. In the 6th century AD, the Emperor Justinian decides to re-conquer what had been the fullest extent of the Roman Empire from his base in Constantinople. He sends an underequipped general, Belisarius, on this mission.
Through guile and tactical genius, Belisarius regains the Roman Empire beating every enemy he faces: Vandals, Goths, and Gauls. North Africa, Italy, the Levant, and parts or modern day Europe are re-conquered. This accomplished, the newly conquered empire could have been the modern colossus governed under a newly codified set of laws sponsored by Justinian.
Unfortunately, Constantinople and the rest of the empire suffer from a plague that kills 25,000.000 people (a very large percentage of the world’s population at the time) and continues to kill in subsequent years.
Immune from the plague are the isolated tribes of Arabs who come under the sway of a merchant, Mohamed, who preaches a new religion that features jihad. The newly conquered territories cannot be held by Byzantium and the effects of the plague have effectively shaped the modern world.
The book is complex and the narrator does the best he can but the story can be followed.
Accounts of European History end with the sack of Rome in 410, then have a black hole called the Dark Ages, and then pick up the story with Charlemagne. This account of history is very incomplete and inaccurate.
While Western Europe was in decline, the Byzantine Empire was in existence from the year 330 to 1453 during which time it was the wellspring of science, art, literature, and history. This Empire was in existence longer that Britain’s government, if one dates it from the Battle of Hastings in the 1066. The works of the ancient Greeks and Romans were preserved, copied and transmitted. Byzantium and its enemies referred to it as the uninterrupted Roman Empire until its fall.
The author shows that three empires in turn benefitted from Byzantium’s contributions: Western Europe; the Slavic Countries most notably Russia (the self styled “Third Rome”); and Moslems. Significantly, Byzantine monks invented the Cyrillic alphabet for use by the Slavs and translated the bible into a vernacular in the 9th century. The British did not have a vernacular bible till the 17 century.
The term “Byzantine” has acquired the pejorative meaning similar to the term "Kafkaesque" because of complication in messy dynastic changes, the similarity of names of offspring, and theological disputes in which the Orthodox beliefs of the Byzantines were more in keeping with the Christian canon than Rome’s view on the same topics.
Edward Gibbon, a skeptic, weighed in with his acidic and exaggerated descriptions of the worst that Byzantium had to offer. This is hardly a reason to dismiss the innumerable positive achievements of Byzantium and its effect in enlightening Europe and making the Renaissance possible.
See also Justinian’s Flea and the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, both available on Audible.
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