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Nathan D. Backlund

Rio Vista, CA USA
  • 7
  • reviews
  • 11
  • helpful votes
  • 131
  • ratings
  • Surveillance Valley

  • The Secret Military History of the Internet
  • By: Yasha Levine
  • Narrated by: LJ Ganser
  • Length: 10 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 43
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 41
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 41

In this fascinating book, investigative reporter Yasha Levine uncovers the secret origins of the Internet, tracing it back to a Pentagon counterinsurgency surveillance project. With deep research, skilled storytelling, and provocative arguments, Surveillance Valley will change the way you think about the news - and the device on which you read it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Profound look at the internet and surveillance

  • By stuartjash on 04-06-18

Essential, Well Documented, and Well Written.

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

Reviewed: 04-06-18

If you could sum up Surveillance Valley in three words, what would they be?

Frightening, Fascinating, and Provocative.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Levine gives us great capsule descriptions of many of the Silicon Valley oligarchs and the writers who celebrate them. However, it was Jacob Applebaum who interested me the most. Such a flamboyant figure who on the one hand was working with Assange and Wikileaks, and on the other was promoting the US government funded TOR Project to the hilt, and getting paid to do so. Truly stranger than fiction.

Which scene was your favorite?

The entire book was fascinating but it is Levine's research into TOR, and its connection to the US military intelligence complex that is most riveting, and also deeply disturbing. Most disturbing is the willingness of so-called internet privacy groups and activists to see Silicon Valley and the US government as somehow at odds on this issue, and to believe that we can somehow code our way around the prying eyes of the CIA and NSA.

Any additional comments?

If you are thinking about getting this book you will not be disappointed. The writing and narration are great, and this is really essential information for anybody who spends time on the internet.

  • Sunburn

  • A Novel
  • By: Laura Lippman
  • Narrated by: Susan Bennett
  • Length: 9 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 671
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 618
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 617

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he's also passing through. Yet she stays, and he stays - drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other - dangerous, even lethal secrets. Then someone dies. Was it an accident or part of a plan? By now Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other's lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Outstanding Mystery

  • By Jim N on 02-25-18

Wow! Great Noir!

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

Reviewed: 02-23-18

What made the experience of listening to Sunburn the most enjoyable?

LIppman is a fantastic writer. I have read or listened to all of her books and this is one of her very best. So many great lines. Polly is a terrific character. If you know the work of James M. Cain you'll love the references to his classic works.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Sunburn?

The book is full of so many surprises that I won't give any away. I'll just say that while the book can be tough and gritty like the best noir, it also has moments of almost unbearable romanticism. Nearly brought me to tears several times.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Late Victorian Holocausts

  • El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World
  • By: Mike Davis
  • Narrated by: James Patrick Cronin
  • Length: 15 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8

Examining a series of El Niño-induced droughts and the famines that they spawned around the globe in the last third of the 19th century, Mike Davis discloses the intimate, baleful relationship between imperial arrogance and natural incident that combined to produce some of the worst tragedies in human history. Late Victorian Holocausts focuses on three zones of drought and subsequent famine: India, Northern China, and Northeastern Brazil.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Mike Davis on Audible!

  • By Nathan D. Backlund on 09-02-17

Mike Davis on Audible!

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

Reviewed: 09-02-17

What made the experience of listening to Late Victorian Holocausts the most enjoyable?

So nice to listen to an engaged and sophisticated author read by an educated reader with a good voice who doesn't mispronounce names.

What did you like best about this story?

We get a glimpse of our future on how climate change will devastate the poor and improve the position of the elites, unless there is real resistance. The descriptions of the famines impact in the global south are harrowing.

What does James Patrick Cronin bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The thing is he was great because he didn't make the audio experience substantially worse then if I read the book. I would love to read all the time but audio books are just more convenient.

If you could give Late Victorian Holocausts a new subtitle, what would it be?

The political economy of famine? No, I like the original subtitle.

Any additional comments?

It's great that Verso is finally putting some of its catalogue on audio. I hope they do this for all Mike Davis books. Then they can start on Perry Anderson.

  • TWA 800

  • The Crash, the Cover-Up, and the Conspiracy
  • By: Jack Cashill
  • Narrated by: Richard Ferrone
  • Length: 9 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 94
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 88
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 86

What really happened to TWA 800? On the 20th anniversary of the crash, author Jack Cashill reveals shocking new evidence. TWA Flight 800 crashed into the Atlantic shortly after takeoff from JFK Airport on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 passengers onboard. Although initial reports suggested a terrorist attack, FBI and NTSB investigators blamed a fuel-tank explosion. But skeptics have long questioned the official story, and new evidence has surfaced that suggests a widespread conspiracy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Far More Than Another Anti-Clinton Screed

  • By Nathan D. Backlund on 10-22-16

Far More Than Another Anti-Clinton Screed

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

Reviewed: 10-22-16

What made the experience of listening to TWA 800 the most enjoyable?

The way Cashill packs an incredible amount of information into an enjoyable narrative.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Jack Cashill. He takes the listener along on the journey of his investigation of TWA 800 and his mostly unsuccessful attempts to try to bring the story to the elite media. Cashill and I probably don't agree on much politically but he has my highest regard.

What about Richard Ferrone’s performance did you like?

That he didn't get in the way of Cashill's narrative too much and didn't mispronounce many words. As I think another reviewer said his style is a little too close to that of Robert Stack in his Unsolved Mysteries days. This comes off as a little cheesy but overall it didn't distract me too much. He also mispronounces the last name of Clinton official Jaime Gorelick, whose name comes up a lot.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I had recently watched the excellent documentary "TWA Flight 800" and wanted to read a book on the subject. This was perfect. I found the information credible and well presented. I came away convinced. I used to be a huge skeptic about conspiracy theories. Now I don't even like to use that term because it discourages rational thought. If Cashill is right, which I believe he is, we cannot rely on our press, or our government, to give us accurate information about the most significant events of our times. Some of you might think that's obvious but this book really made that sink in for me.

Any additional comments?

I held off getting this one for a while because some of the reviews suggested that Cashill got a little carried away with the anti-Clinton rhetoric. One even charged that this was just another right wing election year polemic, like the kind Roger Stone has been putting out. As a man of the left I assure you it is not. It is possible the publisher thought the book would have added relevance with Hillary running but Cashill has been on this story for decades and is one of the leading independent researchers on the subject. Yes he does mention Benghazi, and compares the cover-up to TWA 800, but it's really for only a few paragraphs. You can easily skip them if you can't stand to read another word about Benghazi. I do think Cashill gives undo weight to the fact that this happened during the Bill Clinton presidency. I think most presidents would have tried to cover up this incident, especially in an election year.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition

  • JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case
  • By: James DiEugenio
  • Narrated by: Paul Neal Rohrer
  • Length: 23 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 69
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 64
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 65

If you enjoyed the chilling experience of In Cold Blood and were at the edge of your seat while watching Oliver Stone’s JFK, you’ll love this investigative look into all the facets of one of the top conspiracies of the 20th century and beyond. DiEugenio, who has spent decades researching the Kennedy assassination, takes both an analytical and conversational approach to his fascinating exploration of the pivotal historical events and scandals surrounding that day.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Essential Book but Narration Almost Ruins it

  • By Nathan D. Backlund on 09-20-16

Essential Book but Narration Almost Ruins it

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

Reviewed: 09-20-16

Would you listen to Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition again? Why?

No. This is a book I will go back to but I will read my paperback edition

Who was your favorite character and why?

Jim Garrison. An American hero. It's amazing how much his investigation uncovered and a tragedy that so many of his files have been destroyed or lost.

How could the performance have been better?

Let me count the ways. It almost seems like he is deliberately trying to sabotage Jim's terrific book. I don't know what kind of say Jim has in choosing narrators for his audio-books but I'm so glad he got someone else for "Reclaiming Parkland." I wish Jim had read this himself. First there are the mispronunciations. Then there are the impressions and accents. Every time there is a quote this guy does it in a highly distracting vocal impression. And they are just awful. Absolutely painful to listen to.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I almost gave up several times because of the narration.

Any additional comments?

This is the worst narrated book I have ever listened to. I have listened to hundreds of audio books and there have been some poor narrators along the way. The main problem usually is mispronunciations of names. But this guy Rohrer takes the cake! Maybe he does a good job with other books but he was a terrible choice for this one.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Story of a Death Foretold

  • The Coup against Salvador Allende, 11 September 1973
  • By: Oscar Guardiola-Rivera
  • Narrated by: Danny Pardo
  • Length: 16 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 8
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 8

On the fortieth anniversary of revolution and rebellion in Chile, a searching history of the rise and fall of the world’s first and only democratically elected Marxist president. On September 11, 1973, President Salvador Allende of Chile was deposed in a violent coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. The coup had been in the works for months, even years. Shortly after giving a farewell speech to his people, Allende died of gunshot wounds - whether inflicted by his own hand or an assassin’s remains uncertain.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating Look at a Historical Tragedy

  • By Nathan D. Backlund on 03-01-14

Fascinating Look at a Historical Tragedy

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

Reviewed: 03-01-14

What did you love best about Story of a Death Foretold?

The author does not just relate the events around the Presidency and overthrow of Salvador Allende, but engages with fascinating historical and philosophic questions. These include Allende's infamous decision not to provide arms to the workers in the last months of his presidency, and questions about what we mean by democracy and human rights. All the major events are covered here as well. The role of the U.S., Operation Condor, the "economic miracle" under Pinochet, the battle within the Chilean military that preceded the coup, and a detailed overview of Allende's policies. Other reviewers have red baited this book by calling it Marxist. I'm not really sure what the reviewer meant by that. The author is sympathetic to Allende. If you believe the coup against Allende was a good thing this is probably not the book for you unless you want to hear what the other side has to say. I'm very glad this fascinating and intelligent book is available on Audible.

What other book might you compare Story of a Death Foretold to and why?

The author refers to a lot of films in the text. Patricio Guzman's documentary The Battle of Chile would be an excellent companion to this book. This film provides not just the faces and voices of the major characters in the book, but communicates a sense of how important Allende's presidency was, and the fierce obstacles it faced.

What aspect of Danny Pardo’s performance would you have changed?

For a book with such sophisticated ideas I would have chosen a narrator with a less heavy Latin American accent.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

It's already been made in a sense. "The Battle of Chile."

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Gods and Beasts

  • A Novel
  • By: Denise Mina
  • Narrated by: Moira Quirk
  • Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 177
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 159
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 158

It's the week before Christmas when a lone robber bursts into a busy Glasgow post office carrying an AK-47. An elderly man suddenly hands his young grandson to a stranger and wordlessly helps the gunman fill bags with cash, then carries them to the door. He opens the door and bows his head; the robber fires off the AK-47, tearing the grandfather in two. DS Alex Morrow arrives on the scene and finds that the alarm system had been disabled before the robbery. Yet upon investigation, none of the employees can be linked to the gunman.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful writing, not-so-wonderful performance

  • By Brook on 02-27-13

MIna writes another brilliant crime novel

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

Reviewed: 03-04-13

Where does Gods and Beasts rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Mina's Alex Morrow series is one of the best available in the mystery genre. Gods and Beasts may not rank as high as the two earlier entries in the series but it's still a great listen.

Did Moira Quirk do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

Quirk is not as good as previous narrators, but for me she did not detract from my enjoyment of the novel.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful