Strange Angel

The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons
Narrated by: James Langton
Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
4.0 out of 5 stars (393 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Now a CBS All Access series: “A riveting tale of rocketry, the occult, and boom-and-bust 1920s and 1930s Los Angeles” (Booklist).

The Los Angeles Times headline screamed: ROCKET SCIENTIST KILLED IN PASADENA EXPLOSION. The man known as Jack Parsons, a maverick rocketeer who helped transform a derided sci-fi plotline into actuality, was at first mourned as a scientific prodigy. But reporters soon uncovered a more shocking story: Parsons had been a devotee of the city’s occult scene.

Fueled by childhood dreams of space flight, Parsons was a leader of the motley band of enthusiastic young men who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a cornerstone of the American space program. But Parsons’s wild imagination also led him into a world of incantations and orgiastic rituals - if he could make rocketry a reality, why not black magic?

George Pendle re-creates the world of John Parsons in this dazzling portrait of prewar superstition, cold war paranoia, and futuristic possibility. Peopled with such formidable real-life figures as Howard Hughes, Aleister Crowley, L. Ron Hubbard, and Robert Heinlein, Strange Angel explores the unruly consequences of genius.

The basis for a new miniseries created by Mark Heyman and produced by Ridley Scott, this biography “vividly tells the story of a mysterious and forgotten man who embodied the contradictions of his time . . . when science fiction crashed into science fact. . . . [It] would make a compelling work of fiction if it weren’t so astonishingly true” (Publishers Weekly).

©2005 by George Pendle. (P)2019 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

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What listeners say about Strange Angel

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Best Accidental Read Yet

When I got this I misread the description (I was actually reading the description from another book). I almost returned it but decided to slog through it. I listened to the first chapter and was not impressed. I dropped it but came back a week or two later and listened a bit more. I got hooked. I was one of those kids who fell in love with rocketry and have continued on with a license in pyrotechnics. I understood completely how the whole story came about. This is a wonderful, sad, and yet fulfilling story about a very strange man. While it is not my normal reading preference, I think it was one of the most interesting books I've had the joy of reading in months. While I was initially put off by the performance, after all, Parsons was not English and most of the story took place in California, it seemed to make sense as the story evolved. In the end, it was the right voice for the story.

5 people found this helpful

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Finally on Audible!

If you like the CBS All Access Show, Strange Angel, you're going to love the book. Imagine if Elon Musk took up Magick and you'll have an idea of who Jack Parsons was. Also a great addition for those who love Los Angeles history.

39 people found this helpful

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Excelent!

Interesting story although somehow fast-paced. An specially wonderful narration. I also recommend the CBS All Access series by the Same Name.

30 people found this helpful

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Excellent biography of John Parsons

This was a very interesting history of the 1920-1940’s LA/Pasadena scene, rocketry in the U.S., and John (Jack) Parsons, as well as some of his contemporaries such as L. Ron Hubbard. I very much enjoyed learning about this period and the rather fascinating role that John Parson’s played.

2 people found this helpful

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A Brilliant Man Obsessed with Black Magic

This was an exhaustive biography of pioneering rocket scientist, Jack Parsons. Truth is stranger than fiction and Person's life was strange and unusual indeed. One of the founders of JPL, Parsons was an chemical engineer and rocket scientist who didn't have a college degree, yet alone finish high school. He had a brilliant mind, but became entangled in the occult activities of Alistair Crowley, a figure who practiced a variety of beliefs. Ironically, Parsons would meet L. Ron Hubbard, who successfully began his own religion, where Crowley had failed. This book captures the varying stages of his life, from his wealthy grandparents, to dreamer, who wanted to build a rocket that made it to the moon. His unorthodox lifestyle (sex, drugs, black magic) eventually cost him his security clearance and forced him out of the work he so loved. This is all described in extensive detail, which bogs down the narrative at several points. This book is definitely not what I thought it would be. It is sad that speculation (some of it true) diminished he contribution to the study of rocketry. While the major points of his life and work were interesting, the extensive coverage of the cult sapped a great deal of energy from the narrative. I read this book using immersion reading while listening to the audiobook. Narration was rite and this book was a chore to get through at times. I hope the show is better. This book does capture the era well and the hunt for communists had a sad and devastating effect on many of the "Suicide Squad" rocketeers as they called themselves.

1 person found this helpful

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an interesting story

I enjoyed this book it was an interesting look into the early years of rocketry.

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writing style is esoteric but not bad listen.

Title is spot on, strange. Some wonderful rocket info, but a full chapter on magic is too much.

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Hail Thelema!

If Crowley was the purported to be the most wicked..Parsons was the most interesting.

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A fascinating book about a fascinating man

This book inspired the 2 season series of the same name with the brilliantly cast Jack Reynor playing Parsons. The series took creative liberties that I do not believe the book has, but has inspired a more realistic look into the goings on of Parsons and his almost unacknowledged contribution to rocket science.

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A lot of information

This is another book that I will need to listen to more than once; there is a ton of information.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-30-19

loved it

a very interesting story. very well read. keeps the listener engaged and entertained the entire time

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  • Jason
  • 07-17-19

amazing

Great book. Enjoyed the whole story. if you love magic or rockets it's a must have