If newspaper journalists provide us with the "first draft of history," then "Mark Owen" (a pseudonym) has provided us with history's raw ingredients, the unadorned and unedited account of an important event. Owens doesn't reflect on the politics of the wars he fights or the philosophical implications of his job as a deadly 21st Century super-warrior. Much of the book is filled with the mundane details of his trade: the equipment he wears, his sleep cycle, the importance of emptying his bladder before a mission, the sit-ups and pull-ups he struggled to do to qualify for the SEAL program. He is not an introspective kind of guy and he doesn't describe his work in glamorous or romantic prose. But there are two things that make this book worthwhile. First, there are the Obama-era rules of engagement for the Afghan War which render SEAL and other military operations less effective then before in eliminating the enemy and which expose our own soldiers to much more personal risk then previously. Second, of course, is Owen's personal account of the Osama bin Laden raid. US government officials have questioned the accuracy of Owen's account of how the bin Laden killing went down, but for my money Owen's account rings true because it is more morally ambiguous and less glamorous then the official version and raises the question of whether bin Laden could have been captured and flown away without any real risk to the SEAL team. There's not much about politics here and it's clear that the CIA effort to locate and kill or capture bin Laden proceeded seriously and unabated from September 2001 onward and just happened to gel when it did in 2011. President Obama makes an appearance at the end of the book to watch the takedown by video in Washington and, of course, take credit for the raid which would have taken place when it did regardless of who won the 2008 presidential election. The narration is first rate. Recommended.
This book started out as a series of three novellas by sci-fi master Robert Silverberg: Nightwings, Perris Way and To Jorslem. The Nightwings novella (now Part 1) is an outstanding work, which deservedly won the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 1969. Silverberg subsequently made some minor revisions and combined the Nightwings novella and its two sequels into the present book, also entitled Nightwings. The story begins on an Earth which suffers from environmental devastation and the aftermath of alien domination. Earth has been reduced to a fragmented and demoralized society, populated by various guilds, such as the Defenders (soldiers), Dominators (rulers), etc. The main character, Tomis, is a member of the Watchers Guild. He wanders about with a cart of instruments which he employs on a daily basis, monitoring the skies so that he can alert the Defenders when and if a new alien invasion materializes. Tomis is accompanied by Avluela, a fairy-like member of the Fliers Guild, and, Gormon, a deformed guild-less outcast. Together, the three companions arrive at the feudal city-state of Roum (formerly Rome) where Avluela attracts the lustful fancy of the decadent Prince of Roum. Part 1 ("Nightwings") is a masterpiece of dark mood, exotic characters and intriguing plot set in a post-apocalyptical Earth. Part 2 (“Among the Rememberers”) holds its own, but the quality falters in the final third (“The Road to Jorslem”) -- perhaps an example of an author stretching a great idea into one sequel too many. Still, Part 1 ("Nightwings"), which won the Hugo Award in slightly modified form, is well worth the price of admission and highly recommended on its own right.
Readers hoping for something approaching the richness and excellence of Frank Herbert's Dune masterpiece will find The Godmakers disappointing. The Godmakers consists of four closely connected short stories concerning Lewis Orne, an agent of the Investigative Adjustment (AI) organization. Similar to the Bene Gesserit in the Dune Universe, the AI employs made-up religious doctrine and applied sociology to neutralize threats posed by potentially warlike planetary societies. Also like the Bene Gesserit, AI agents possess extrasensory psychic powers and prescience which they employ to manipulate individuals and societies to their ends. Unfortunately, the stories in this book are not that interesting. The characters are one dimensional and spend entirely too much of their time pontificating at each other. One cannot fault the generally excellent narrator Scott Brick, who does the best he can with what he has to work with, for the failure of this book to engage the reader.
This is a fun-filled detective romp through a noirish Los Angeles. The story takes place in a quirky environment populated with Sirens and others from Greek mythology. An enjoyable read!
This is the story of the Cathars, a heretical sect which arose in parts of France and neighboring countries during the 12th Century. It's a fascinating and little known chapter in history which sheds much light on life and religion in medieval times. The Cathars, who claimed to be the sole practitioners of the true Christianity, as Jesus proclaimed it, were a strange lot. They did not believe in sex, owning property or eating meat or dairy. They probably would have died out of their own accord in a century or so, but the Catholic Church of its day was certainly not going to wait around for that to happen. In 1209 the Pope in Rome launched the Albigensian Crusade with the goal of converting or wiping out the Cathars and all other heretics in Southern France. This is an informative and entertaining book, written in a somewhat informal style which differs from the approach which might be taken by a professional academic historian. For example, the author imagines the thoughts of various historical figures and probably takes some liberties with the dialogue attributed to them. My one major criticism is that I thought a bit more detail was needed in places, particularly in recalling the Siege of Montsegur which amounted to the last stand of the Cathar faith. The book is enthusiastically and clearly read by the author.
Welcome to planet Delmak-O where danger and confusion lurk
behind every corner and reality is constantly shifting out from under you! Science Fiction Grand Master Philip K. Dick guides you on a surreal trip down the rabbit hole as 14 eccentric characters find themselves the sole colonists assigned to a fledgling outpost on Delmak-O, a strange and hostile planet inhabited by mechanical bugs, gelatinous tenches that answer questions based on the I Ching, and a sinister building which appears different to everyone who approaches. Offbeat god-figures manifest at various times to help and advise to the settlers. Death stalks the colonists as one by one they are killed off by each other or mysterious unknown forces. By way of a forward to the book, PKD acknowledges that this work found inspiration in LSD experiments and his interest in Eastern religion. This is an enjoyable listen for those who appreciate science fiction which explores metaphysical and surreal themes. The narrator does a good job with the various voices, male and female alike.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a truly wonderful story and it remains fresh and exciting even if you've read it once or twice before. Rob Inglis does a great job with all the voices and singing all of Tolkien's delightful songs. The magic is all there and more! Highly recommended!
Even if you're very familiar with the classic 1968 Charlton Heston movie, there are a few surprises and plot twists here that make this an interesting and exciting listen. The main character is Ulysse, a French journalist who journeys with two other intrepid astronauts to the distant star, Betelgeuse, where they, of course, come upon the Planet of the Apes, inhabited by primitive humans and technologically advanced chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. The themes are somewhat different from those of the movie, but this is a well written and exciting book with a tightly-constructed plot, which also raises interesting questions about the ethics of animal research and social behaviors which can bring about the death of a civilization. Well narrated.
Benedict Arnold was a fascinating individual, a gutsy and brilliant military leader, who most likely saved the cause of the American revolution long before he sought to destroy it. If you are unfamiliar with the details of his treason the last part of this book reads like a thriller in which you can't wait to see what happens next as the intrigue unfolds. This is history which not only shines a light upon the characters and their actions, but also gives you a feel for this historical time: the mores and customs, the technology and the means of warfare, so that you get a sense of what it was actually like to live during the era of the American Revolution.
Treasure Island is a wonderful story and it remains fresh and exciting even if you've read it a few times before. The Colonial Radio Players do an excellent job with multi-cast presentation, great sound effects and music. The voice casting is very good and the magic is all there, with Long John Silver, Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey and all the rest.
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