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  • American Prometheus

  • The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
  • By: Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin
  • Narrated by: Jeff Cummings
  • Length: 26 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 45
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 39
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38

J. Robert Oppenheimer was one of the iconic figures of the 20th century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb but later confronted the moral consequences of scientific progress. When he proposed international controls over atomic materials, opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb, and criticized plans for a nuclear war, his ideas were anathema to powerful advocates of a massive nuclear buildup during the anti-Communist hysteria of the early 1950s.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Spoilt by a very poor recording

  • By Steve on 21-03-14

Spoilt by a very poor recording

3 out of 5 stars
1 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-03-14

Imagine you’re reading a great book: perhaps you delight not only in the author’s skill with the pen, but also that of the typographer who has lovingly crafted the spacing, the line breaks and the hyphenation to ensure that the appearance of the type is as appealing as the story itself. Imagine then, that you turn the page only to find a single sentence set, not only in a different typeface, but also larger and poorly spaced. Reading further, you find odd passages here and there, sometimes just a few words, sometimes complete paragraphs that are set completely differently to the rest of the book. That is the visual equivalent of listening to this book, the recording of which is continuously interspersed with re-recorded passages that have a different quality than the original.

Although I’d read complaints about this in other reviews, I never imagined the extent to which it occurs. In almost every case, it’s a sentence that contains a name that’s either foreign or difficult to pronounce. It occurs so often that you can’t help wondering if it wouldn’t have been easier to have simply re-recorded the entire book. It’s jarring and, for me at least, interrupted and spoilt the narrative.

In a book that, thanks to the nature of its content, is riddled with foreign names and complicated words, you’d think that the producer, at least, would have either checked the pronunciations or chosen a narrator a little more au fait with foreign expressions and pronunciation. It’s very sad, because it’s an otherwise fascinating and well written book.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • The All-American Boys

  • By: Walter Cunningham
  • Narrated by: Walter Cunningham
  • Length: 21 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3

The All-American Boys is a no-holds-barred candid memoir by a former Marine jet jockey and physicist who became NASA's second civilian astronaut. Walter Cunningham presents the astronauts in all their strengths and their weaknesses in this dramatically revised and totally updated edition of a book that was considered an instant classic in its first edition over two decades ago.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Cunningham Tells All

  • By DrTris on 08-12-18

Starts off well, deteriorates into a ramble

3 out of 5 stars
1 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-01-14

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Plenty. Technically, the sound quality is poor and Cunningham's narration really dire. From a content point of view, I'd have omitted the material added in 2003 which deteriorates into a long, repetitive ramble.

How could the performance have been better?

I would have it narrated by a professional actor/reader overseen by a producer and recorded in a professional studio.

If this book were a film would you go see it?


Any additional comments?

As an avid follower of the Apollo program during my teenage years, I found the first part of this audiobook (the original text written in 1977) containing Cunningham’s account of Apollo fascinating. I’ve read a number of books on the program, including Lovell’s Lost Moon, Aldrin’s Magnificent Desolation and Kranz’s Failure Is Not An Option. Cunningham provides lots of interesting new facts and snippets of inside information; opinionated and outspoken, he peppers the text with candid thoughts and assessments of his fellow astronauts and the race to the moon.

What a shame he didn’t leave it at that. In 2003, he saw fit to extend the book and give us the benefit of his thoughts on the state of NASA and the space program today. Although he is surely better qualified than most of us to provide such commentary, the result, sadly, deteriorates into a rambling diatribe, getting worse the further you get. I stuck it out to the end, but after a while, it really became a challenge. For me, it began with Cunningham giving us his critical opinion of teachers in space, followed quickly by women in space and non-whites in space. While I can’t argue with him that the best person must be selected for the job in hand – especially as an astronaut – regardless of political correctness, you can’t help thinking that he’s still living in the 60’s and doesn’t realise that society (and NASA, for that matter) has moved on. Later on, we’re treated to his outspoken opinion of collaboration with the Russians, continual harping and criticism of George Abbey to mention just a few. A lot of the commentary is opinionated with little substantiation.

Cunningham uses human and technological progress together with pushing the bounds of exploration to justify continued investment in space travel, comparing the space program with the likes of Columbus and da Gama. But you can’t help getting the impression that he doesn’t seem to understand, or at least accept, that that very progress has bought with it changes in public opinion, social values and mores along with greater demands for equality. Although he mentions the role the cold war played as a major motivator in getting an American on the moon, Cunningham doesn’t seem to realise that the motivations and justifications for putting people into space have changed in the ensuing 30 years. Towards the end of the book, I got to a point where I thought, “This must be the last chapter,” only to discover another. And another. By the end, Cunningham is repeating himself almost ad nauseum and you wonder when it’s going to stop, which is a shame because the first part of the book was excellent.

The situation was surely made worse by the overall quality of the audiobook. He may have been a great fighter pilot and astronaut, but a narrator Cunningham most definitely is not. His style of reading is terribly stilted and his technique is dreadful. It might be his book, but he should never have been allowed to read it: pauses in all the wrong places, especially when confronted with words that are difficult to pronounce, mispronunciations, and misread words make listening hard going. The sound quality is very sporadic. There’s an ever-present echo together with constant “saliva clicks” and mouth sounds that makes you think that Cunningham recorded the audiobook on a portable cassette recorder in his kitchen rather than in a proper recording studio. Plus, after the first couple of chapters, the “Chariot of the Gods” style music at the end and beginning of each chapter becomes tiresome.

All in all, I wish I’d read the original version rather than listening to the extended one.

  • Halfway To Hollywood

  • Diaries 1980 To 1988
  • By: Michael Palin
  • Narrated by: Michael Palin
  • Length: 4 hrs and 53 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 163
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 113
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 113

The second volume of Michael Palin's diaries covers the 1980s, a decade in which the ties that bound the Pythons loosened as they forged their separate careers. After a live performance at the Hollywood Bowl, they made their last performance together in 1983 in the hugely successful Monty Python's Meaning of Life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Really Nice

  • By Trebor on 04-09-13

Excellent stuff

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-11-09

Like the previous reviewer, I couldn't stop listening to this. I listened to Volume 1 of Michael Palin's Diaries plus several other of his books and I find his narrative and his delivery excellent. Especially here. Very witty, very incisive. Plus, when Michael "imitates" the voices of the people he quotes, it's never overdone; always just the right amount. Well worth listening to. Roll on Volume 3.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful