This is a fascinating story that hasn't received a lot of coverage in the media! Highly recommend both for the content and narration. Interesting from both psychological and cultural perspectives, the authors describe their experiences over five years of captivity in the jungle in a very candid manner.
I've been a Star Wars fan for many years: I grew up on Zahn's Thrawn trilogy, I slogged through some of the more mediocre books that followed (Truce at Bakura, the Courtship of Princess Leia, etc), and I generally enjoyed the Rogue Squadron series. The prequel books from the last few years have definitely been a mixed bag, with the Clone Commando series ranging from Okay to Good, while Traviss’ other books rate a solid “Meh”. However, the last couple of years have produced an overall upward trend, with the excellent Path of Destruction series as well as a couple of good stand alone books like Scoundrels and the Obi Wan book that is (I hope) the harbinger of another interesting series. Following the particularly good Darth Plagueis, I was riding a high and couldn’t wait to read Maul: Lockdown and learn more about the machinations of the Sith during the period leading up to the Clone Wars.
While the premise of Sidious sending Maul to train in gladiatorial prison matches is indeed plausible and had been hinted at in Darth Plagueis, Schreiber's execution of this concept was simply atrocious: the storyline itself is incredibly contrived and core elements require a tremendous suspension of disbelief, while the dialogue, scenery and many of the characters seem to be pulled directly from a crummy, made-for-TV movie starring Nicholas Cage escaping from a 1970s prison in the southeast United States. What’s more, the author’s portrayal of Maul is not consistent with other (better) books or even within this particular disaster of a novel.
This unabridged audiobook became almost literally painful and I started listening to it while I was about to fall asleep, confident in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be missing anything worthwhile. Please, skip this book and go read Plagueis or the Path of Destruction series if you’re looking for a Sith fix.
P.S. Regarding the narration, Jonathan Davis is a decent narrator with a couple of Star Wars audiobooks to his credit, but he doesn’t do any favors for the already weak dialogue and his Maul voice is inconsistent because he can’t decide whether or not to use the same accent that he used for Darth Bane in the Path of Destruction series. Lockdown would have been ever-so-slightly less painful if he’d just gone with the Bane voice rather than experimenting with a different accent every time Schreiber gives Maul yet another awkward mouthful of dialogue.
3.5 stars. This is essentially a summary of the current state of affairs as regards the search for extraterrestrial life, though (as other reviewers have noted) the author meanders across sciences. I usually find geology history rather interesting, but it stretched my patience in this book. In addition, I felt that the author put far too much effort into building artistic prose and 'personalizing' the story through the lives of the researchers that he interviewed…no offense to the author, but I'd rather focus on the science and skip the human interest pieces. Ultimately the outlook is, at the moment, rather dour as far as space exploration and SETI goes: NASA lacks the budget for major missions, and SETI is similarly struggling for funding.
Typical of Lee Child, there are many critical plot elements that stretch credulity. The bad guy is over-stereotypied to the point of annoyance, but my biggest criticism is that the narrator is simply Awful…didn't they ask for a sample of this guy's work before they paid him to do the whole book?? I almost stopped listening on several occasions but was bored and plodded on as a result of a lazy curiosity to find out what happened. But don't follow my example, please.
…this is the perfect way to end your addiction; if you've read two or three Reacher books by the time you get to this one, you'll realize that the plot is virtually the same, only with a damsel in distress who is incredibly difficult to sympathize with. Reacher comes across as an ignorant moron who decides to be a knight in shining armor for a woman he barely knows and is even suspicious of. Don't waste your time.
This is an interesting book that gives a good summary of the current state of affairs in terms of asteroid tracking & mitigation technology. If you're interested in astronomy you'll probably enjoy this. The reason that I only gave the audiobook 3 stars is because the author refers, on numerous occasions, to graphs & charts that are supposed to be included in a PDF with the audiobook. The lack of these visual references is frustrating, and though I e-mailed Audible customer support about this issue several weeks ago, the PDF is still not available through their website.
Like many people, I have an interest in UFOs, SETI etc. but have steered clear of books on the subject for many years because because most exhibit the less-than-objective hallmarks of authors who have clearly 'swallowed the red pill' (to quote the Matrix) and surrendered their credibility to the world of conspiracy theorists.
Kean's refreshing work documents several incidents that aren't widely known and, most interesting to me, discusses the surprisingly extensive investigations that nations other than the U.S. have conducted into various sightings. Her sources are, for the most part, identified by name and possess good credentials; much of the book is actually their verbatim testimonials rather than Kean's editorial. Most reports and discussion were precise and specific, with counter arguments considered and rebutted.
I don't think that every argument was rock solid but, generally speaking, the quality was far better than any other book or documentary that I'm aware of. As a military pilot, I can say that she does a pretty good job of representing the technical aspects of many reports, though she does seem to be rather easily impressed by the "Top Secret" security clearance credentials that at least one of her interviewees possessed (these clearances are so common as to be almost taken for granted among Air Force pilots and in certain other military career fields as well).
I'm not going to completely revise my worldview based on this book, but I would say that it re-opened my eyes to the subject of UFOs to the point that I'll at least critically evaluate such reports rather than casually dismissing them as conspiracy babble.
Regarding the narration: rather than the simple expedient of using two narrators, a female and a male, to read the author's discussion and the eyewitness reports respectively, the producers employed a single, relatively monotone female voice. As a result, it's often quite difficult to distinguish between the author's discussion and the eyewitness narratives, to the point that it actually does detract from one's comprehension of the book.
I optimistically chose to listen to this book despite the mediocre reviews because I'm interested in national security, CIA, spy aircraft, etc., but was greatly disappointed.
First the Good Stuff: Jacobsen actually did a lot of interviews for this book and was welcomed (past tense, before the book was published) into the network of retired contractors and military personnel who ran programs or flew planes at Area 51 over the years. To that extent, it's very interesting because she presents some interesting (and probably true) stories from pilots who flew the A-12 and other aircraft at Groom during its heyday in the mid-1960s. One particularly interesting event that I've never heard of before (and I've done a lot of reading on these subjects) involves a pilot recalled being scrambled in an A-12 to intercept a Soviet balloon that was overflying the U.S. in 1965.
Now the Bad... The book begins with a story that could most generously be described as highly implausible about the Soviets crashing a Nazi-built flying saucer near Roswell in 1947 to scare Americans and proceeds into a surprisingly non-critical (or insightful) recounting of Bob Lazar's even less believable tales. The book then transitions from utter fabrication to a poorly written history of the Nevada Test & Training Range, atomic testing, etc, during which the author and her editor repeatedly demonstrate that they neither understand basic concepts about science and technology that any college graduate should know nor apparently have the ability to cross-check their historical information against wikipedia. The author/editor repeatedly describe historical events, technology etc. in a way that would seem unnecessarily simplistic to a high school student, their explanations running the gamut from kind-of correct (as in, what's said isn't WRONG per se but anyone who actually understands the subject matter can tell that the author clearly does not) to simply off the mark. For example, Jacobsen feels like she needs to explain the concept of stealth aircraft to her readers (whom she assumes have never watched CNN) using a poorly-chosen analogy about how animals use skin color to blend into the environment. I felt my intelligence insulted on many occasions, not the least of which was the (second) time she explained that OXCART, the code name for the supersonic spy plane, was chosen because it's ironic (get it? an oxcart is SLOW but the A-12/SR-71 was really FAST!!!). In another minor-but-annoying error that typifies the book and erodes any credibility that survived the first chapter, the author describes an Area-51 employee flying to the Site in a Constellation aircraft and then says something like "...then the twin-engine aircraft banked and..." I want to shout, "Annie, have you ever seen a picture of a Constellation? It would take you like 5 seconds to google it and find out that it has four engines."
To summarize, her book is really a travesty to the men and women who worked on these projects over the years. It's truly disappointing that that their fascinating stories got blended into this melodramatic and otherwise poorly-written book. If you're really interested in classified projects or Cold War history then parts of this book might be interesting to you, as they were to me, but be prepared to wade through a lot of nonsense in the process.
One final note: the narration was usually fine, I didn't even realize that it was done by the author until I came to write the review. However, I did notice that, unlike every government official, newscaster or person around the country, Annie pronounces "NASA" as "Nasaw."
I was hesitant to download this because there weren't any reviews- but I took the plunge and it was worthwhile. It's an interesting look into the criminal world and the politics of law enforcement. Narration and pacing was excellent, definitely recommend.
If you've only seen the movie, read the book. It's totally different but fascinating and gives more perspective/content to some of the stuff from the movie.
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