AUDIO BOOK REVIEWS
by Jonathan Lowe
FICTION, AND FLYING SAUCERS
by Stanton T. Friedman and Kathleen Marden is a new audiobook
narrated by a slow talking Chris Sorensen. (Others
that are available on the subject are UFOs by Leslie
Kean and The Alien Abduction Files by Kathleen Marden
and Denise Stoner.) Regarding the new book, it is mainly an
attempt to debunk the debunkers: those critical of the UFO reports
on record suggesting that alien craft are visiting Earth from
other star systems. While some valid points are made by the
authors, (including that there has been a systematic denigration
of Ufologists by the media and other scientists,) I do have
problems with the flaws in logic employed in flipping the argument.
For example, they attribute bias to most of those skeptics who
interpret the evidence differently, (these skeptics discounting
the eyewitness accounts of professionals.) Chapters are spent
recounting the backgrounds of witnesses…their degrees,
their accreditations, awards, even that they are highly respected
by their communities or have served in the military or law enforcement.
This amounts to an appeal to authority, one of the fallacies
outlined in “The Beginning of Infinity,” an audiobook
which shows how science actually works. The problem is that
real science doesn’t care WHO says something, only if
it can be proven or repeated. There is no doubt that many of
these respectable people saw something, but any accident investigator
will tell you that eyewitnesses often give contradictory accounts.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and there
is still no absolute physical evidence for UFOs in museums.
Even the Roswell museum, (which I have visited, and where the
author claims a real UFO crash happened) is unclear about what
happened, and presents both sides. To posit that NASA and the
Air Force are hiding UFOs is conjecture and supposition, based
on redacted documents and questionable testimony. If you go
the conspiracy route, you may end up with believing that the
moon landing was faked, and that the Earth is flat (as many
on Youtube try to “prove” as a means of diverting
attention from simply claiming global warming is a hoax.) It
is pseudo-science. One can say one doesn't believe anything
the government says, but that is illogical too. The choice is
not all or nothing. Life is not black and white except to racists.
Science is not a ball game with opposite end zones. I do believe
we are not alone in the universe, but to say that Ancient Aliens
built the pyramids is just nonsense. Dr. Michio Kaku, which
the authors denigrate in the book, has said that in order for
aliens to be here on Earth they would need to be over a million
times as energy efficient as us, and would probably not send
biological beings but rather robots (if they themselves are
not now machine intelligence, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)
“They wouldn’t land on the White House lawn because
we would be ants to them, anyway.” The authors, rather
than discuss the physics of what Kaku says in his new book Parallel
Worlds (which mentions human signals only reaching a tiny portion
of space so far, plus the odds against travel at near light
speed) suggests that the UFOs haven’t visited the White
House due to detection by radar and weapons in the no-fly zone.
If a civilization is a million times more advanced, what possible
threat could military jets pose to them? Have the authors been
watching comic book movies? Furthermore, could a craft from
another star system endure the rigors of deep space, skirting
light years of violence and radiation, only to crash in the
New Mexico desert? And what about the wide varieties of craft
purportedly seen and defended by the authors? Some make no sound
at all, others shoot flames that light up the countryside. Yet
they are both included in the 5% of “valid” UFO
sightings, outside the 95% explained as weather, other craft,
or hoaxes. Would alien technology used to reach Earth really
spew fire? What kind of fuel would that be: regular or diesel?
Finally, the authors have a few Freudian slips, as when they
refer to the “UFO Movement,” which implies a dogma
or religion. One 18 year old witness is described twice as a
“man.” He can’t drink alcohol in many states,
and he’s a man, not a teenager? Here I am just using their
own logic. Yes, data gathering should continue. But you can’t
cherry-pick your “evidence” and call it science.
Especially since most of their evidence is from the 50s and
60s, back when there were no cell phones. (In a new book, why
not limit the evidence to new sightings? Are there no iPhone
videos and high def photos to illustrate? Have the UFOs returned
to some star system SETI has yet to hear from? If so, why should
we care about UFOs anymore?) A quote from physicist Neil deGrasse
Tyson: "Science doesn't care what you believe. It’s
what you can prove.” Let them show those redacted documents…the
print below the blacked out lines. If they are NOT about keeping
Air Force experimental aircraft technology secret (but rather
about UFO technology) I’ll eat my hat, and they will win
the Nobel Prize.
a longtime reviewer and Audie Award judge, I’ll now
recommend ten all-time fav audiobooks which you should absolutely
hear, if you haven’t already.
POWER OF NOW. You don’t have to embrace Buddhism
to benefit from universal truths of this masterpiece of philosophy.
Read by the author, Eckhart Tolle, it is
his story, but also the story of why violence has taken over
the world, and how to end it. I was so moved by this book
that I wrote a novel based on it, and received permission
to quote the book in “The Miraculous Plot of Leiter
THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY by David Deutsch, read by Walter
This is the most amazing science book I’ve ever heard.
It is comprehensive and logical while being both realistic
and optimistic about the power of seeking “better explanations
for things.” It tells how science works, the history
of progress, and a complete understanding of flaws in logic,
all of which have dominated past static cultures is presented
with clarity and rigor. This one audiobook is like a college
course in itself, arming you with the tools to never fall
for pseudo-science or conspiracy theories. And I’m not
the only one who says this. “Brilliant and profound.
Smart, imaginative, and ambitious.” —NY Times
FILTER BUBBLE by Eli Pariser, read by Kirby Heyborne.
An ear opening and surprising look at social media’s
dark side: the personalization filters employed by Facebook,
Google, IG, Twitter, and others. Pariser argues that “giving
the people what they want” has led to universal myopia
and a deeply fractured political reality. This is because
the media feeds back to us exactly what we already believe
(and only that) in order to keep us in a demographic box which
is more easily marketed to (and sold to third parties.) The
side effect is that we rarely encounter alternate views or
ideas, and they can then manipulate us to buy their products
(food, CDs, drugs, movies, candidates, etc) with better accuracy.
Knowing what influences us gives them a power to work behind
the scenes, subliminally.
CRIMES by Marc Goodman, read by the always engaging actor
Robertson Dean. This is a continuation of Pariser’s
conclusions with actual crimes committed by multinational
companies spying on us to obtain personal data and sell it
to third parties. True horror stories of hackers and stalkers,
too. Even that “free” game you downloaded comes
with a price! They are watching every keystroke, and your
phone calls and texts are being recorded and stored in supercomputers.
(Thank Snowden for some of this. We wouldn’t know otherwise.)
SUGAR FAT by Michael Moss, read by my friend and #1 narrator
Scott Brick. You may never drink soda again after
hearing this. Not only is it bad for you, but the food and
drink companies don’t want you to know how they lie
and cheat behind the scenes. It is all spelled out here in
by Nicholas Taleb. Parallels revelations from Moss
with statistics and probability. Taleb is a scientist talking
about why everything in the world can’t be predicted.
For example, we can never be 100% safe, no matter how many
trillions we throw at security. Some things benefit from disorder,
and exercise works because it strains the body to become stronger.
He also covers why “big” is not good in business
or egos. Only the artisan (and not the giant corporations)
can be good for both the economy and the planet. (His critics
do not want to debate him! He simply knows too much.)
CANE ROAD by James Lee Burke, read by the amazing voiceover
talent and actor Will Patton. The most profound mystery
novel I’ve ever read. I interviewed the author, who
told me on the phone that it was his fav too: “Everything
came together on that one.” Burke has been compared
to Faulkner, but chooses to write mystery. Here is what Michael
Connelly (who has has movies produced on his own novels by
Clint Eastwood, among others) said: “No other living
writer has been more influential on the contemporary crime
novel than James Lee Burke. Using a painter’s careful
brush strokes of character and place, he has turned the form
into a literary exploration of the moral ambiguities that
lie in the darkness of our souls. His work has set the watermark
so high that I don’t think anyone else will ever reach
it. With Purple Cane Road, he has moved it up yet one more
notch. This one is his best.” And as I told Audiofile
magazine in my review, there has never been a better match
between writer and narrator.
WINE by Ray Bradbury, read by Paul Michael Garcia.
Ray was a giant literary talent who, as an adult, was nonetheless
able to see the world with the eyes of a child. Stephen King
looks up to him, too. Ray answered every letter (eight?) that
I wrote him with encouragement and even poetry!
FOREVER WAR (and The War That Ended Peace.) The first
is an award winning SF novel which influenced Avatar, read
by George Wilson, the second is an amazing history
of the First World War (begun over an argument and trivial
insult) by Margaret MacMillan, read by Richard Burnip.
LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK by Ben Fountain, read by Oliver
Wyman. A novel soon to be a movie, about a returning
vet who feels that people only see his uniform and not him.
Only flags, and not reality. (It is why many vets commit suicide.)
You are made to walk in the protagonist’s shoes at a
football game featuring Beyonce at halftime. The book has
won multiple awards, including the National Book Award. Another
especially for the ladies I also recommend ME, MYSELF,
AND WHY by Jennifer Ouellette; GHETTOSIDE by Jill Leovy; BEHIND
THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS by Katherine Boo; COCO CHANEL AND THE
PULSE OF HISTORY by Rhonda Garelick; IN ORDER TO LIVE by Yeonmi
Park; FIFTH AVENUE 5 AM by Sam Wasson (about Audrey
Hepburn); STATION ELEVEN by Emily Mandel (have
interviewed); FALLING AWAKE by Jayne Anne Krentz, and
CONSIDER THIS, SENORA by Harriet Doerr (read by the
legendary industry pioneer narrator Barbara Rosenblat, a friend
and Orange is the New Black cast member.)