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Alec Drumm

Weston, CT, USA
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  • The Uninhabitable Earth

  • Life After Warming
  • By: David Wallace-Wells
  • Narrated by: David Wallace-Wells
  • Length: 8 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 959
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 881
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 877

It is worse, much worse, than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible. Like An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring before it, The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Don’t read if you have depressive tendencies.

  • By Ricky on 03-17-19

Breathless summation of global warming impacts

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-27-19

This book is currently 3rd on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction bestsellers list. So I thought I had to read it as a scientist and environmentalist. I still think that this is a mandatory read for everyone. Every living thing on Earth will be greatly affected by the climate change impacts discussed in this book.

However, it is not fun to read and it is very dry. Everything seems to be doom and gloom. That may be true but there must be some hope somewhere. The author keeps saying that it is in humanity's power to stop climate change. Theoretically that may be true, but practically how would we ever get the world to agree to stop using fossil fuels and switch to solar, geothermal, wind, and nuclear power generation, and within the next 10 years? It is politically not feasible and the technology is not there. For example, air travel would be impossible because there are no airplanes powered by renewable energy sources.

Rather than explaining how horrible and deadly the world will be at 8 degrees warming, the author could give some practical solutions that we could follow up on. For example, switch to electrical cars ASAP and turn off coal burning power plants. Plant a lot of trees. Implement a carbon tax that gradually ramps up, as British Columbia has done. Etc.

The author doesn't do himself a favor by reading his own book. His narration is dreadful. The facts are rattled off in a flat, breathless voice.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Life After Life

  • A Novel
  • By: Kate Atkinson
  • Narrated by: Fenella Woolgar
  • Length: 15 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,240
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,829
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 3,837

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Thought provking premise well executed

  • By Carolyn on 11-19-15

Beautiful story and outstanding narration

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-18-19

Before starting this I was concerned that it would be repetitive and not very interesting. The concept of someone restarting her life after death seemed contrived and cliche. Some reviewers stated that they lost interest after a while.

My experience with Life After Life could not be more different. The story of a wealthy English family in a country mansion has been done so many times before (think Downton Abbey) but Ms. Atkinson has found a new twist. The main protagonist Ursula Todd stays very interesting throughout her exploits. I could not stop listening, even though some chapters are emotionally devastating - Ursula's experiences during the war especially.

The language is beautiful and the narrator is excellent. Such precise diction and the different characters are outstandingly captured. I will listen to this again. Recommended.

  • The Poison Squad

  • One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
  • By: Deborah Blum
  • Narrated by: Kirsten Potter
  • Length: 11 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 150
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 135
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 135

By the end of 19th century, food manufacturers had rushed to embrace the rise of industrial chemistry and were knowingly selling harmful products. Unchecked by government regulation, basic safety, or even labelling requirements, they put profit before health. Then, In 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as, "The Poison Squad".

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • poison squad

  • By amy kaster on 04-15-19

Hero of a forgotten episode in US science

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-19-19

The Poison Squad is about the career of Dr. Harvey Wiley, a chemist in the US Department of Agriculture who led the fight against food adulteration in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is incredible what was passed off as food and food additives in a period with no regulation. In the pursuit of a buck, manufacturers would sell "coffee" that contained no coffee and "soft drinks" sold to children that contained high levels of caffeine, morphine, and even heroin. They would add formaldehyde to spoiled milk and borax to spoiled meat that was then canned and sold to the US military.

In the present day the case for strong regulation seems clear but Dr. Wiley ran into a lot of opposition, even when the safety of common food preservatives such as formaldehyde and boric acid was scientifically questioned by his "poison squad" studies, which used a panel of human test subjects fed various doses of these ingredients. Such studies would not pass scientific ethics boards today. The Poison Squad describes the various tangles Wiley had with anti-regulation advocates at the DOA and with food manufacturers' lobbyists.

It's an interesting story, especially for scientists. The narration is not great however. The narrator speaks as if half the text is in quotation marks, especially chemical terms such as "formaldehyde". It sounds as if she is reading a legal text rather than a historical text.

  • The Fall of Carthage

  • The Punic Wars 265-146BC
  • By: Adrian Goldsworthy
  • Narrated by: Derek Perkins
  • Length: 16 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 278
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 247
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 248

The struggle between Rome and Carthage in the Punic Wars was arguably the greatest and most desperate conflict of antiquity. The forces involved and the casualties suffered by both sides were far greater than in any wars fought before the modern era, while the eventual outcome had far-reaching consequences for the history of the Western World, namely the ascendancy of Rome. An epic of war and battle, this is also the story of famous generals and leaders: Hannibal, Fabius Maximus, Scipio Africanus, and his grandson Scipio Aemilianus, who would finally bring down the walls of Carthage.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Captivating

  • By Jean on 03-25-19

Many battles but why?

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-04-19

This is a comprehensive review of the Punic wars based on scant source material - mainly Livy's History of Rome and Polybius's account. For those who have read those works there is not much new here. It's nice to have the whole history in one book. However, near the end I was tired of yet another battle followed by massacres and enslavement of the losers, including the civilian population.

Why did the Punic wars happen? Because there are no Carthaginian sources, the history of the Punic wars survives only in the Roman victors' accounts. And the Romans made no secret of their loathing of the Carthaginians, an ethnically and culturally different people with foreign traditions and practices.

It's pretty clear though that the Punic Wars were started by the Romans with their attacks on Tarentum and Sicily and conducted and concluded in a brutal manner. The Punic merchants were not very expansionist and would probably have coexisted peacefully with the Romans.

Dr. Goldsworthy discusses the causes of the wars only very briefly if at all.

54 of 63 people found this review helpful

  • Severance

  • A Novel
  • By: Ling Ma
  • Narrated by: Nancy Wu
  • Length: 9 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 324
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 296
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 293

Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty. She’s content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend. So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 4.04 stars

  • By j phillips on 12-06-18

Floating through the apocalypse

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-04-19

Ling Ma has written a page turner with the story of Candace Chen, a millennial office worker bee who finds herself caught up in a civilization ending epidemic. A fungal infection named Shen fever is rapidly making almost everyone other than Candace into mindless automatons endlessly repeating familiar actions until they starve to death. Candace writes a blog called NYGhost and she is moving through this story like the ghost in her blog. Terrifying changes to the world are happening all around her but she is mainly concerned with finishing the employment contract she signed at her firm. Meanwhile the streets of New York become emptier and emptier until she is almost the only one left.

The story alternates between the road trip she goes on with a small group of survivors after leaving New York and her family and work environment in the city. The descriptions of Candace's thoughts and actions are very strong, but she is strangely detached from the world both before and after the epidemic. Her Chinese immigrant parents have died before the start of the story and she has only one brief relationship with a neighbor in her apartment building. Other than that she does not appear to have any friends or other than superficial contacts. Maybe that is why she is resistant to the fungus. The book offers no explanation.

I'm not a fan of apocalypse fiction and I understand that the theme of a global epidemic has been used before and perhaps other parts of the plot have as well. Still, I believe that this novel is very well done. It made me think for a while after finishing it. The narration is sort of flat but it feels like a good representation of millennial speak.

The book ends abruptly but I don't know if another ending is possible. I thought she might meet up again with her Brooklyn boyfriend, but that would be a too happy ending. Perhaps if Candace would have engaged more with the world she wouldn't have ended up as a ghost.

  • Anna Karenina

  • By: Leo Tolstoy
  • Narrated by: Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • Length: 35 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,426
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,118
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,095

Leo Tolstoy's classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Not to be rushed but to be savored

  • By J. Stirling on 08-02-16

Wonderful, magical, astounding

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-15-19

What to say about this book? It's the classic of classics and many reviewers call it the best novel ever written. It certainly didn't disappoint.

The story and plot are straightforward - the book describes the activities and love affairs of Russian nobles at the end of the 19th century. Almost everyone is a prince or princess, count or countess, and all are wealthy with houses in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the Russian countryside. It seems that the various characters spend half the book traveling by train or coach between these locations.

But the language, and the detailed descriptions of the thoughts and motivations of Anna, Levin, Darya, Vronsky, and the astonishing ending, are all so wonderfully rendered that the book continually amazes. Many writers might gloss over the birth of a child, or an outing hunting grouse, or the horse race, but not Tolstoy. The book forces the reader to adapt to its slow pace and let its beautiful words flow over him or her.

Maggie Gyllenhaal's narration is outstanding. She stumbles over some of the French and German text in the book but it's a minor transgression.

After ending the book, I wished I could continue living in the world of Anna and Levin, just for a little longer.

  • The Battle of Arnhem

  • The Deadliest Airborne Operation of World War II
  • By: Antony Beevor
  • Narrated by: Sean Barrett
  • Length: 16 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 161
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 150
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 149

On September 17, 1944, General Kurt Student, the founder of Nazi Germany's parachute forces, heard the groaning roar of airplane engines. He went out onto his balcony above the flat landscape of southern Holland to watch the air armada of Dakotas and gliders, carrying the legendary American 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions and the British 1st Airborne Division. Operation Market Garden, the plan to end the war by capturing the bridges leading to the Lower Rhine and beyond, was a bold concept, but could it have ever worked? The cost of failure was horrendous, above all for the Dutch.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fighting a lost war

  • By Alec Drumm on 11-03-18

Fighting a lost war

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-18

At heart this is a very sad story. So much bloodshed and destruction while the war had been lost for Germany for months. Still the Germans fought on viciously. But the Allied forces were not well led either and would often shoot prisoners of war, for example. The destruction of the ancient Dutch cities of Nijmegen and Arnhem would have been wholly unnecessary with better war planning and execution.

Antony Beevor is British, but the British generals, especially Browning and Montgomery, come across as incompetent compared to the US and Polish forces. In contrast, the bravery of the British paratroopers is always clear even when facing impossible situations. In the end it's not enough to win the battle and the war is prolonged by more than 6 months, causing immeasurable suffering to the Dutch population in German occupied territories.

The book is very well written and never boring. It is very bleak at times. The narrator was excellent.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • All That Is Left Is All That Matters

  • Stories
  • By: Mark Slouka
  • Narrated by: Cris Dukehart, James Anderson Foster
  • Length: 4 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 1

 In 11 beautifully wrought stories - ranging from occupied Czechoslovakia to California's Central Valley to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest - Mark Slouka explores moments in life when our backs are to the wall. Alternately harrowing and redemptive, these are stories of ordinary men and women, doing everything possible to tighten their grip on life. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Uneven collection of eloquent stories

  • By Alec Drumm on 10-05-18

Uneven collection of eloquent stories

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-05-18

What I liked most about these stories were the poetic observations the author makes in his writing. For example, the author writes of the waffle-shaped imprint of boots in the snow. There were many such descriptions that were all beautiful.

Other than the quality of the writing, the stories are rather mundane, mostly about parent/child relationships in the 1960s in the Midwest. Nothing much happens. The collection becomes uneven when one of the stories (about a dog) veers into the fantastical.

So throughout the book I tried to discover a common thread in the stories and there really wasn't any that I could see. I doubt that I would listen to this collection again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Equations of Life

  • How Physics Shapes Evolution
  • By: Charles S. Cockell
  • Narrated by: Ian Porter
  • Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 89
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 78
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 79

In The Equations of Life, biologist Charles S. Cockell makes the forceful argument that the laws of physics narrowly constrain how life can evolve, making evolution's outcomes predictable. If we were to find something very much like a lady bug eating something very much like an aphid on a distant planet, we shouldn't be surprised. The forms of life are guided by a limited set of rules, and, as a result, there is a narrow set of solutions to the challenges of existence.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Stimulating, entertaining

  • By anonymous123 on 01-25-19

Too many equations, not enough insights

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-24-18

This was a pretty good attempt at explaining the impact of physics and chemistry on life as it evolved on Earth and as it might evolve on other worlds. There were not many new insights for me - we know that carbon-based chemistry is much richer than chemistry based on silicon or other elements. And the physical forces on life are well known. The chapter I enjoyed most was about life on planets with a higher gravity than Earth. I understood that such lifeforms would be shorter and stockier, but had not realized that the higher density of air would make flight possible for many more animals. A wonderful insight.

The rest of the book is rather dry and falters (for the Audible reader) where equations are given. The poor narrator has to explain complicated equations in detail (T sub f divided by pi R squared equals ...). Even if you're familiar with the physics it's hard to visualize what the equations look like. This may be better in the printed version, but why provide equations at all without explaining what they mean and where they come from? The book becomes a textbook and not a very good one. My least favorite college textbooks were the ones that presented complicated equations with no history or background.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Children of Time

  • By: Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Narrated by: Mel Hudson
  • Length: 16 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21,049
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19,626
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19,588

Adrian Tchaikovksy's critically acclaimed stand-alone novel Children of Time is the epic story of humanity's battle for survival on a terraformed planet. Who will inherit this new Earth? The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life. But all is not right in this new Eden.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating Premise Within an Excellent Story

  • By Kurt Schwoppe on 07-30-17

Experiment gone right?

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-18

In the world created by the author, humanity has fusion reactors that allow travel to the stars, and terraforming technology that allows the conversion of distant planets into livable habitats. All that technology is in vain when factions on Earth fight and make Earth uninhabitable. The war leads to the destruction of almost all human life in space as well.

There are two outposts that survive: the Gilgamesh, an ark ship with half a million people in cargo in suspended animation, and a probe around a terraformed planet with Dr. Avrana Kern, who evacuated from another ship and also bombarded the planet with living creatures that carry an engineered virus that allows them to evolve quickly. Dr. Kern's intention was to seed the planet with monkeys, but instead the monkeys don't survive the trip from space and a planet of intelligent spiders results.

The book is about what happens when the Gilgamesh arrives at Kern's world and two civilizations fight over one habitable planet. The Gilgamesh goes in fighting, which predictably doesn't work. Children of Time is an outstanding read offering new ideas in a well trodden genre. I enjoyed it immensely. Particularly well done is how the story handles the progress of time, with its human characters aging at different rates depending on the time spent in suspended animation.

The narration is outstanding, with Mel Hudson offering many different voices for all the characters. The spider civilization is very convincingly created. The ending of the book seems possible but is it a good ending?