Entertaining and alarming in equal parts, this is a true account of the US military's experimentation with the supernatural.
In 1979, a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the US army. Defying all known accepted military practice - and, indeed, the laws of physics - they believed that a soldier could adopt the cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them. Entrusted with defending America from all known adversaries, they were the First Earth Battalion. And they really weren't joking. What's more, they're back and fighting the War on Terror.
©2004 Jon Ronson; (P)2005 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd.
"Simultaneously frightening and hilarious." (The Times)
"Few more earnest investigative journalists would have had the brilliant bloody-mindedness to get what he has got and hardly any would have the wit to present it with as much clarity." (The Observer)
"A hilarious and unsettling book." (Boston Globe)
I was considering watching the movie, and read a review for it saying that, of course, it wasn't nearly as good as the book. It went on to say that the movie was based on a non-fiction book, which I found very intriguing. I was not disappointed. It was well worth the credit.
Jon Ronson's writing style is priceless. There's a tongue in cheek tone throughout the book, though the author manages to pay the subject matter enough respect to not alienate believers. Just the facts, ma'am.
Sean Mangan does a magnificent job of narrating, complete with appropriate voices. His "mispronunciation" of several words jabbed at me a bit. It's almost as if he over-articulates at times (pronouncing "again" as "ay gain" instead of |əˈgen|) or says words as a computer's text to speech feature might (pronouncing "Maryland" as "Mary Land" instead of |ˈmerələnd|). Otherwise, he was a joy to listen to.
There are plenty of "holy crap" moments as we learn some things that went on, and continue to go on in the psychic realm of the U.S. Military. The author spent a little too much time telling the story about the shameful acts at Abu Ghraib, but it was a story that needed to be told. A little discomfort on my part is a price I'm willing to pay.
Some of the first-hand accounts of the author's personal experience with some of the military specialists was mesmerizing, especially a moment that felt to be straight out of science fiction, when the author was psychically thrown across the room.
Very well done, and highly recommended.
This book was very entertaining. I started listening and before I knew it I had listened all the way through. The title does little to express the entire scope of the book. But it does set the stage for just how fringe the world of investigation could be. This book is strange, funny yet intriguing.
A great story, but ruined by a terrible narrator. He has no sense of or feel for the narrative. He sounds like a ham actor.
Jon Ronson. But really, anyone other than the person who narrates this version.
It was a movie, and I did see it.
No. The narrator was completely mismatched to the story - this is even more evident if you've listened to Jon Ronson's previous audio books, Them, Lost at Sea, etc, where he reads his own story (or stories). This narrator is so not-Jon-Ronson that it almost ruins the story, for me anyway. Sean Mangan is probably a fine narrator of other audio books, but just not this one. From his past books, you get a little taste of the author's personality and manner - this narrator, in my opinion, is totally contrary to that.
For content and story, I would compare it to Mr. Ronson's books, some listed above. He has a self-effacing style that is quite funny, but appropriately. He is not flip in a way that would lead you to believe he doesn't know the subject matter, because he researches each subject exhaustively. This shows when the author comments on a person or situation and references to a past experience or research and is done in a way that is interesting, not droning on as to bore you to death.
Maybe, if he were reading classical literature.
Yes, if the author was the narrator.
Just that I have never had such a negative reaction to a narrator. The way this guy pronounces his words, as another reviewer pointed out, he says, "Mary-land", for example, and has other odd speaking habits you would not expect to hear from an American. He sounds like an American trying to do an impression of what he thinks an Ivy-League Professor would sound like. It's really weird and oddly deflating if you're expecting to hear Mr. Ronson's voice reading the story.
Characters seemed a little less colorful than other Ronson books. There were also main players in remote viewing that I wish he could have gotten an interview with/spent time with. I read this book after "psychopath test" and "them", so I was expecting the same razzle dazzle. Of the three books this one is my least favorite. Also I wish Jon Ronson had narrated it like the others. He adds so much to experiencing his books when he reads them...much like david sedaris and bill bryson.
Listen to/ Read more Ronson and books that he mentions....
It was interesting listening to this book after hearing coast to coast broadcasts on the topic of remote viewing for so many years and seeing other sides to those guests. Also, I was shocked when I heard the link between Stubblebine and heaven's gate......and disgusted by Stubblebine's dismissiveness of any responsibility. This is why I love Ronson. I was too young to have been conscious of what was going on in the 90s and no one talks about these events anymore. The truth is shocking and I for one am glad to be reintroduced to these things through Ronson's interviews and research.
It's rare to find a non-fiction book wherein you often find yourself thinking that you must surely be listening to a fictional story. Ronson is always entertaining, but the content is so absurd that I find myself second-guessing it's veracity (although I don't believe that Ronson would fabricate his sources may not be the most trustworthy bunch). The narration was good, although I much preferred it when Ronson narrated his own work.
Laughter is the best medicine, but if you are laughing for no reason, you may need medicine.
The book itself could be enjoyable but the narrator seemed incapable of correctly pronouncing any semi-exotic word with more than two syllables. Would it be to hard for the producer to maybe correct him and make him redo sections where he butchers the English language? Aside from his timing, tone and grasp of the language he was almost tolerable.
I have an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a Master's Degree in Professional Writing from Maharishi University of Management, am author of THE RELUCTANT VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK, and am an avid reader/listener.
I almost didn't buy this book because reader reviews complained about mispronounced words and a diversion about modern day torture, which one reviewer described as filler for the lack of data about the main topic. However, as it happens, the illiterate ones were the reviewers because the reason for differently enunciated words is that the narrator is BRITISH. Rather than mispronouncing words, he was speaking English possibly more precisely than the average American.
I also didn't find anything off-topic. The more I listened, the more impressed I became with the excellence of the writing. To fully appreciate the book, the reader must understand the difficulty Ronson faced in researching and explaining such an obscure, easily misunderstood, topic. Anyone who has ever tried to get accurate information from the kinds of people he was dealing with will be impressed. The lengthy details about the torture might seem off-topic to the casual reader but were very relevant, even necessary. They explained how "alternative" military methods have evolved from the original ideas of the First Earth Battalion, and the present state of such methods--all examples of excellent writing.
Reviews from those who mistake scathing criticism for intelligent critique say more about the reviewer than about the book, so if you can bear to hear the facts about military "intelligence," by all means, download this book.
This was definitely an entertaining listen, but at times I did wander whether the author may have lacked subject matter to fill a whole book... Sometimes the story wanders off track a little (or a lot) and it ends up being a long list of interviews with all sorts of whacky characters (and at times not very believable claims)... Fun, but take it with a grain of salt...
This book covers more than staring at goats. For example, MK Ultra. I thought I was well informed about MK Ultra but Ronson talks to Erik Olson and gets more on his father's death. Narrator is over-dramatic and uses some unusual pronunciations
"Satirical humour highlights the true terror"
Unlike some reviewers, I found the "dead-pan" US voice lent itself well to the satire. However, everyone I played some to commented on the voice, so it is in the way a little. Ronson himself has a very (modern) English accent.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes wild and strange stuff, anyone who likes the military or military history and anyone unsure about the ?War on Terror?.
After writing a review of this book on my site, I actually received complaints from Jim Channon himself, which suggests that he is not totally happy with the final version.
"My, How Jon's Voice Has Changed"
I'm an American and even I found the strident Gee Golly! accent of the narrator distracting. I understand why the publisher did it (the story takes place in America, focusing on the kind of peculiar ideas that one can only really find there...not to mention people in marketing still believe Americans can't understand English accents), but Jon Ronson has a very distinctive voice that lends itself well to his understated observational humour. I was overly aware of the narrator plowing ahead where Ronson would have trailed off, thereby obliterating punchlines.
It took effort to not focus on the narration, but once I could (about halfway through) there were good things underneath. I was continually amazed to see every high-profile American military and government failure of the last twenty years traced back to the men responsible for a ridiculous psychic warfare experiment. Just as I was asking myself how this hadn't been reported before, Ronson hits upon the way the media covers the subject of psy-ops, relegating it to either pithy soundbite or a story dismissing the notion as a long-dead curiosity.
I still wish I had read the book from the page instead of listening to it, though. Maybe hold off until they have Jon Ronson himself record a version.
"Wot? Not Jon?"
Jon Ronson has such a distinctive voice, well known to his many listeners on BBC Radio and viewers on Channel 4 that the choice of not just someone else, but someone with an American accent to read this book is incomprehensible.
If it was a cynical decision to disguise his Englishness for sales purposes, then it is one that has backfired, for me at least.
Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. I just can't listen to this, despite or even perhaps becuase of my liking of Jon's work.
"An account of a world gone mad"
While I was listening to this I googled some of the names mentioned and was astonished to find these people are real and I was not listening to a spoof. This is hilarious and also disturbing. The fact that somebody out there believes they can walk through walls if they reach the right state of mind is incredible enough but they are also being funded by the American government who honestly believe this has some serious military application. If I was a goat or a hamster I would be very worried indeed.
I liked the narrator. He might not be Jon Ronson but he has fantastic comic timing and I laughed out loud on many occasions.
I expected so much from this book and got so little from it. Just a hotch-potch list of names with random stories tenuously connected with little or no substance to support their validity. Really, don't bother with it!
Probably Douglas Adams.
Monotone. Difficult to fathom when one characters "story" had finished and moved onto the next.
The entire thing was a waste of time
I think I've made my point!
"Please re-record with Jon Ronson"
I Cannot believe it! I bought this book without paying any attention to the narrator believing blindly that of course, this would be our beloved Jon narrating. Jon doesn't just tell a story with words, but with the subtle inflections of his voice that probably no one else, especially someone who is not Jon Ronson, could possibly hope to tell. I love listening to Steinbeck or Fitzgerald or Angelou with an American narrator but this is every kind of wrong. So, it's set in America - it's not important - lots of Jon Ronson stories are set there. I want to carry on listening but I just keep drifting off. I'll read the rest of it, I just can't listen anymore - it's too distressing!
Imagining Jon Ronson was narrating.
Any scenes that weren't narrated by Jon Ronson.
When is the re-recording going to take place?
ps. I have nothing against Sean Mangan, I'm sure when he's narrating other books not written by Jon Ronson, he's very good.
"They did what????"
I really enjoyed this rather crazy book. If it's true, I'm shocked. if it isnt then I'm impressed by the authors imaginative humour.
"men who stare at goats"
The poor goats, really sorry i bothered with this book, i tried to listen to it but was so bored i felt i was loosing the will to live....well listen anyway.
"Apocryphal of conspiracies"
Ever the sceptic, or is that the optimist, I came to this one thinking that if the left-learning Kevin Spacey and George Clooney are involved then there would be bound to to be something of interest in this one.
Disappointed to say there is not - no story, no revelations, nothing of information, embarrassment or enlightenment in the context of Iraq and Afghanistan
There are a couple of strolls up and down various garden paths of retired army personnel, a couple of unsubstantiated urban myth-type recordings of non-bleating goats in unmarked sheds down unclassified roads in de-registered army bases that everyone now denies ever exists....so there you are conclusive evidence that after searching long and hard I?ve come up with concrete evidence that the total amount of this book does not match a sand-castle in consistency or substance.
In truth, where this book does come alive is in respect of the comparisons that can be drawn between what might have happened (ie: Goats and Hamsters) with what we are starting to discover did (allegedly) happen in respect of the torture and prisoner abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Camp X-Ray Guantanamo Bay.
The truth really is stranger than non-fiction in this context - and in that context this book is largely a wasted effort...not funny, not well written, not relevant - and, I am left largely suspecting, not accurate in any sense.
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