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John Gathly

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Russian Roulette audiobook cover art

Excellent histoary that doesn't hide the ball

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

Reviewed: 06-02-19

Unlike many of the texts available on audible that deal with soviet history, this one was refreshing for being clear from the outset that it isn't writing an unbiased history, but is clear in its point of view from page one that it is a story about fighting the global socialist revolution, which the author considers an unqualified heroic action. When you don't hide your bias, it becomes easier to take your history as it is, instead of being annoyed by the clear point of view when unacknowledged by so many other authors. A strange thing occurs, also, when you do this, the author is able to acknowledge alternative points of view, simply from the fact that they are openly displaying their own, and the history is actually more complete. When you state outright that the British Empire and its brutal murder across the globe is cool with you, you don't have to make fuzzy dodges that try and imply some intrinsic quality that justifies the trail of blood that is the history of empire. You simply state outright that you don't care, and you're on this side. You're a disgusting imperialist asshole with a broken system of morality, but it's refreshing nonetheless.

Caught in the Revolution audiobook cover art

good narrator, blind bourgeois analysis

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

Reviewed: 06-02-19

This author takes it upon herself to paint the ruling class of Russia and their rich consorts and imperialist diplomatic corp as innocent victims. She describes their demeaning treatment of their servants lovingly, while describing the proletariat demands for decent pay and work hours as "ridiculous", "absurd" and "impossible". The introduction tries to paint some of her cast of obscenely wealthy and privileged characters as occasionally having thoughts of guilt over their rich, decadent meals while the majority of the Russian people starve as if to suggest that that makes them good people. The descriptions of the experience of being "caught in the revolution" are good. It's hilarious to listen to these fattened pigs squeal about their privileges being threatened and their incredulity of working class people making demands of them. However, her constant intrusion into the narrative with her bourgeois concerns for the pigs over the starving working class gets annoying quite quickly. The narrator, however, is excellent, and elevates the material.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

The Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism: A History of 20th-Century Russia audiobook cover art

Soviet History should be like other history, but..

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

Reviewed: 05-31-19

Once again, for some reason, when it comes to soviet history or history of any person in soviet power, Western historians cannot simply tell the history. I've gone through countless histories on audible, covering great plagues, imperial crimes on vast scales, murder, slavery, genocide, but for some reason all of those histories are told as histories, as in here are things that happened. Whenever I get to any one of these books or courses that deals with any communist country and their history, there's nonstop editorializing placed on top of the history. This many people died (and that's very bad, and communism is bad, and communist people are bad), and then this horrible event happened (because communism bad, people bad, these are particularly evil people), and then they won this war (and that's bad, very bad, because communism bad). The cold war's all consuming propaganda efforts seems to have broken people's brains. They seem to be completely incapable of discussing this history without needing to provide their bona fides as a full-blooded European imperialist first, as if to say "Look, I'm a historian, and I'm going to cover this subject, but I want everyone to know I'm on the righteous side of good and against communism every single chance I get." It reads like people with a gun to their head. It's pathetic and sad.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

The Russian Revolution audiobook cover art

Disingenuous

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

Reviewed: 05-27-19

Once again, an author starts his history book suggesting he wants to remove his subject from its contentious political context and review the history without bias, then writes a book full of bias. He editorializes everything the revolutionaries do with his opinions that he doesn't apply to the provisional government, the tsar, the generals, or anyone else. The crimes of imperialist war are simply stated as fact, but anything the revolutionaries do gets judgement. He ends with the most extraordinary and absurd claim that poverty will always be and anyone who gets the urge to address it is a hopeless utopian who will only bring about destruction as if poverty was some kind of natural state and not simply a product of how societies distribute resources.

The violence and crimes of capitalist empires are just things that happen in this history. The deaths from those are not decisions made by people, just stuff that happens, but revolutionary behavior isn't just stuff that happens in a revolution. Those things have authors who must be blamed. He constantly refers to revolutionary activity as "illegal". Yes, it's true, when you're completely overthrowing a system of government, it's illegal. No kidding. See every revolution that ever happened for the same. He complains about lies from revolutionaries, as if a revolution is something that you just make happen with rainbows and unicorns. Oh no? People lied? That's so bad. This history was a joke.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Lenin audiobook cover art

Lenin totally took an extra piece of that cake.

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

Reviewed: 05-14-19

It's a strange idea that a writer would sit down to devote years of their life to writing a book on someone they despise so much. It's not just the hatred of socialism or the USSR which I expect, but Jonathan Aris goes out of his way to veer away from any story he's telling to elaborate on whether Lenin was staying in a room that was nice or if he had a meal that tasted good. Every little detail of his shoes or clothes or food or comfort in transportation is noted, as if to say "see, this man who advocated for a a system with no class system had luxuries in his life". This is, of course, a tired ideological argument that has nothing to do with socialism. Socialism has never been for any socialist about giving more to the poor. It's about restructuring society so there are no poor, where every human being has a say and control over their life. Lenin could have stuffed himself with delicious food and lived in obscene luxury and it would not be in anyway a hypocrisy. It doesn't matter how the USSR actually turned out, how Lenin lived, how rough and autocratic the soviet system turned out to be. None of these have anything to do with how much comfortable Lenin was in exile. There is no hypocrisy there, no matter how much these bad historians with an ideological axe to grind want to make it. You don't have to like Lenin. You don't have to be a socialist. You don't have support socialism or socialist states. You can abhor the USSR. Just do history. Be a historian. Write a history of your subject without constantly injecting your own issues into the history.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

The Proud Tower audiobook cover art

Ruling class violence is cool. Anarchism is silly

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

Reviewed: 05-11-19

Tuchman goes into all kinds of loving detail about the curiosities and playful habits of the ruling class. She ignores all violence they perpetrate in favor of stories about their dietary habits and fondness for gambling and hunting and riding. She speaks reverently of their intellect, affectionately of their handsome faces. The anarchists, however, are "violent" and "cruel" and don't understand what "human nature" really is. Their revolutionaries are "misguided" or "fooled" and are hopelessly "utopian". Her absolute infatuation with a ruling class that exists on a mountain of skulls of imperialist war can be seen as somewhat fussy or particular, but quaint and respectable. People fighting against their rule, silly and confused.

I don't ask that she take the side of the anarchists. I would be fine with a simple history of their views and actions, but whereas she doesn't editorialize anything to do with the bourgeois classes, simply reports on their lifestyle and behaviors, she cannot help but insert her thoughts on anarchism at every turn. If you're going to insert your view of anarchism as "utopian" and against "human nature" maybe insert the literal river of blood that keeps the imperialist bourgeois classes in their carriages and frocks too.

Victorian Britain audiobook cover art

If you're careful to pick through his bias, good.

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

Reviewed: 01-06-19

This is my second Great Courses series featuring Patrick N. Allitt. At least in this one he spared us his usual lie about treating history as facts only and not being too moralistic about it, because he clearly isn't. The Empress of India, the leader of unimaginable exploitation and suffering at home and abroad, the woman who gave us the term "Victorian" to describe the horrors of industrial capitalism, is to Patrick, a "nice lady" who was pretty in her youth. He couldn't simply ignore Marx, because a history of that very process of industrialization so defined by this time without it's most respected and long heralded critic living at the center of it would be ridiculous, but he does make sure to limit it to a few sentences, always ending with the idea that "and, of course, Marx was wrong". Then he makes sure to imply that he can't look at the poverty this created, because that's controversial, so he skips it, but rest assured, there was poverty that existed before it, so that's ok. All the positives of empire, but hey, there were negatives to everything, right? so that's ok. Everything about British hierarchy and privilege and class systems are good, and everything else can safely be ignored as "emotional". This is how he addresses history as just the facts, just the facts that support the wonder and power of the British empire. Everything else is emotion.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire audiobook cover art

Not bad on the history, but...

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

Reviewed: 11-11-18

the professor goes out of his way to introduce his philosophy of history, the idea that you just say what happened as fact, and don't import your own political views into it, don't moralize over these facts of history. He wants to just present the facts and let the audience decide on their own what they think about them. As usual, when people propose this view, they tend to view "the facts" of history as aligning with whatever powerful force wrote the history, and dismiss the people who suffered under that force as "moralizing the history". It's certainly easier to do history this way, as the powerful are usually the ones who leave the records behind. However, this idea of leaving your own political opinions at the door, as usual, fall completely short with this professor, because literally no one actually does leave their politics at the door. politics is infused with every act of life. So when this professor presents slavery, it's just a fact of life, and here's why they needed slaves, and here's what they did. When the professor presents the rampant death from malaria for these white colonists who were more prone to die from it, this suddenly becomes a "tragedy". When the rich and powerful die, tragedy. When the poor and brown die, fact of history. He also just presents his own view that Adam Smith was definitely right, and "free trade" is beneficial and helpful to all without argument or discussion, as another "fact of history". It's not that these ideas caused massive suffering in the very colonies of the British Empire that he's discussing, just some "facts of history" happened, yadda yadda, everybody wins. But again, despite failing utterly at his stated goal of presenting the facts of history with no moralizing, he does present the basic facts of the British Empire in a concise and clear way, that, were you to only be interested in the superficial details of British settler colonialism and empire, you won't be dissatisfied.

1493 audiobook cover art

Interesting, but seriously flawed

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

Reviewed: 10-10-18

This author is a science journalist, so his "history" is similar to when other non-historians try and write history. For example, the entire "Freakonomics" trend of writing conclusive cause and effect values to large social trends based on single, simple initial elements. This suffers greatly from attributing huge effects over centuries to small, individual vectors, like a disease or the uses of silver. History doesn't really work like that. It makes for good copy, and people like to read it, because it feels good to see such large patterns reduced to understandable concepts and simple causes. That is the problem with science. All understanding is predicated on reducing everything to it's simplest or smallest component, and from understanding that, and it's interactions with other small components, you can build up an understanding of the whole. This will work fairly well when describing how molecules form or stars are born, but history is not the same. Far far greater a problem, however, is the author's complete lack of knowledge of economics, which means he relies heavily on believing whatever certain economists have concluded, lacking any education to question their conclusion. This leads him to mention Ayn Rand too much, libertarians too much, and to conclude absurd nonsense like that trade is some kind of equalized maximization of two party's needs. He thinks government is somehow separate from economics, instead of the foundation of it. He peddles the typical Randian nonsense against fiat currency, as if basing money on cowrie shells or gold is intrinsically sound. Fiat currencies cause inflation when they're mismanaged, not simply by the nature of being fiat. It's difficult to take in the history of these regions at this time, when he's basing it on such a flawed understanding of economics. Lastly, his method of dealing with the controversies over different historical facts, like the numbers of a population in a given location, seems to simply be "always go with the largest number, because that's the most dramatic".

There's a fascinating history that could be written on the premise of this book, and this book achieves it in places, but the flaws drown out the good stuff for me when I'm spending so much time questioning everything he says based on his clear misunderstanding in some places.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

The First Frontier audiobook cover art
  • The First Frontier
  • The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America
  • By: Scott Weidensaul
  • Narrated by: Paul Boehmer

"too PC" whiner Eric (below) convinced me to read

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

Reviewed: 10-04-18

White people who are so upset that aggressive, violent, colonizing white oppressors are called aggressive, violent, colonizing white oppressors and the victims of their genocide are not, are the reason we need books like this. If poor little white snowflakes can't take the realities of history and need to be told fairy tales about how good they are as white people, perhaps even lay-person, popular history is not for you. Perhaps there's a list of "white people so good" history they can read an enjoy. Whiney Eric from my home town only helped convince me to get this book with his pathetic whiney review about "how dare they insult whites and praise indians." I mean, it's only the worst genocide in the history of the world, what white people did to the indigenous peoples of America. Why would you mention that or frame it correctly, when sad little white boys might get a sad?

1 of 3 people found this review helpful