Profile for N. Kunka > Reviews


N. Kunka's Profile

Customer Reviews: 99
Top Reviewer Ranking: 118,500
Helpful Votes: 172

Community Features
Review Discussion Boards
Top Reviewers

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
N. Kunka RSS Feed (Los Angeles)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
Patriarch Run
Patriarch Run
Price: $4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy both intimate and global, July 9, 2014
This review is from: Patriarch Run (Kindle Edition)
4.5 stars

Billy Erickson's life gets turned upside-down when his absentee father miraculously shows up outside his high school toward the end of his senior year. Missing for close to a decade, Jack Erickson has a lot of explaining to do - but he doesn't remember where he's been or who he is. What he does know for a certainty is that he's being hunted by unknown and dangerous entities who want to kill him, and now Billy and his mom Rachel are caught in the middle. Intimate and moving with the quick physical violence evocative of McCarthy's southwestern Americana, there's carnage on a small scale as the area around the Patriarch Run turns into a battle zone between contending forces who want Jack and what he doesn't know he has. But there's more. As Jack gets peeled away in layers and young Billy is built-up by the experience there emerges a complexity of plotting and an international scope that are reminiscent of le Carre and Ludlum. <i>Patriarch Run</i> manages both the personal and global with near masterful finesse. The sheer desire to know WHY things are happening and why Mexican cartels, Chinese intelligence services and the US government are interested in Jack simply compels you to keep reading.

Accompanying the excellent plotting are wonderful characters that you can't help but invest in. They're broken, imperfect and utterly real - grounded in experiences that the vast majority of us can relate to. Young Billy changing his well-laid plans of serving his country in the military for love, Rachel's struggle to find herself and avoid becoming her mother, Sheriff Regan's struggle with shame and identity in the rough and tumble world of small town politics all touch on elements of the human condition so familiar that you feel the humanity and life in each person Dancer brings to the page. The best thing isn't just the realism though. Savvy readers learn to recognize archetypes and form assumptions fairly quickly in the narrative. Dancer has a way of evolving his characters that force you to recontextualize them and recast their previous actions in the light of new information. It's not done merely for shock value either. There's a corresponding evolution of the scope and importance of the personal life-or-death struggle each character goes through to the life-or-death struggle of nations and of species. There's real philosophy here - thought-provoking (and chilling) ideas that you and the characters are forced to confront together. Life and death choices that are simultaneously (again for lack of a better way of saying it) both intimate and global. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Jack himself, who's as complicated a figure as you're likely to find in contemporary literature. He alternates between Jason Bourne and Thomas Malthus as easily as he does between Captain Woodrow Call and Charles Xavier - you love him and despise him with equal gusto and I loved it.

<i>Patriarch Run</i> is incredibly difficult to set neatly into a single genre. The book description nails it best when it describes the tale as a coming of age story. It is that, in more ways than "simply" a young boy finding his way to adulthood without his father. It becomes the story of how a man redefines his loyalties and principles and how humanity learns to become its own keeper. It's about learning responsibility and about making hard choices and living with the consequences - and it's about these things in a way that is layered and nuanced with subtlety and craft that will keep you pondering not just the philosophical and scientific implications of the plot to our own world, but the metaphorical implications and resonances within our own lives. That's some heavy analysis, but I feel like one of the biggest strengths of Dancer's work here is that the tale he tells addresses all comers. If you're looking for a riveting suspense story, you've got it. I finished <i>Patriarch</i> in damn close to a single-sitting. If you want something with layers to peel apart and ideas to explore well beyond the last page, well, you've got that in <i>Patriarch</i> as well.

All-in-all there's a few really minor kinks (I can be really finicky) that will no doubt be sorted out by Mr. Dancer, but even as it stands it deserves much more attention than it's getting. Do yourself a favor and pick it up! Tell your friends!

**Full disclosure: The author sent me a copy in exchange for a fair review and some honest thoughts. The author gave me the strong impression that his main interest is in telling the best story he can. Help him out and give him some more feedback.

Mad Gods - Predatory Ethics: Book I
Mad Gods - Predatory Ethics: Book I
Price: $3.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Conspiracy, mythology and history - Oh my!, March 31, 2013
Athanasios takes a lot of risks in the construction of Mad Gods; some of those risks pan out beautifully and some sort of fizzle (especially in the second half). Mad Gods is a synthesis of cult favorites, seamlessly invoking and intertwining Dan Brown, Stephen King and William Blatty along with a ridiculously prolific knowledge of American popular culture from the 1960s and just about every conspiracy theory with any staying power from the time of the Crusades to the present. The story follows the prophesied birth of the anti-Christ in the form of a small child named Adam in Argentina and the web of individuals, from shadowy Knights Templar to zealous Luciferians in their attempts to capture the child and use him for their purposes. Guarding the child is a relic of the past, Kostadino Paleologos, a reluctant hero and a descendent of the rulers of ancient Constantinople before its fall into Muslim hands. Mad Gods encompasses centuries of history and is a clever and plausible revision to commonly accepted Church history in the West. Along the way there's magic, lost tomes and dusty libraries as well as action-packed bursts of good versus evil that put many action writers to shame.

Indulgent and overly explicatory, Mad Gods ultimately spends too much time forcibly connecting the dots between disparate historical events and trying far too hard to make everything fit into the narrative from the Kennedy assassination to the popular false-pope conspiracies of John VI. The novel begins as a historical thriller, and the first half is a taut and purposeful page-turner with interesting mysteries and sound historical contextualization - Indiana Jones meets Robert Langdon in a near-Eastern hero who is enigmatic and complicated. Kostadino is chased by Vatican assassins and directed by ghosts to ancient libraries that reveal lost aspects of history that are thought-provoking and ripe for literary exploitation. (The emphasis on the fall of Constantinople and the Fourth Crusade was especially appealing to me; as a historian who wrote several papers on the subject, I was pleased by the level of scholarship and the depth of the narrative.) Herein lies the weakness of Mad Gods, however. In the first half, Athanasios manages the delicate balance between driving the plot forward and back-building, with the explication serving to give depth to the action and his main character. In the second half, the balance is lost. There are simply too many plot-lines to follow - each with their own massive depth of historical context to delve into, which simply distracts from the present plot. The tension of the deadly game of hide-and-seek Kosta and Adam are playing with the various forces looking for them is lost between chapters of explication and backgrounding for characters who, in the end, didn't really matter all that much and ended up being replaced by a "new" shadow organization in the Black Nobility, who become the driving force of much of the plot only in the last quarter of the book. Don't get me wrong, the sudden puppet master twist can work well in books of this kind, but in this case the many factions are so sub-factionalized you risk losing the reader and the labyrinthine connections and double crosses. When the narrative finally does return to Adam and Kosta, it feels like it's done mostly out of a sense of duty, or an afterthought, catching the reader up to events that have been happening with this central pair of characters while the narrative was busy focused on developing conspiracy theories and in those intervals the author seems to be stuck on a stroll down memory lane, with accountings of whatever music or movies happened to come out in that year taking up 80% of the narrative on this much-neglected track.

Mad Gods does present several very compelling and original ideas and, unlike most works in the genre, has some pretty darn amazing prose to back it up. Athanasios paints beautiful pictures, develops interesting characters, and makes oblique historical references interesting and entertaining, but there's just too much there for one book to stay focused and on-point. There's tremendous potential here, and Athanasios is definitely someone to watch for in the future. I have the feeling a good editor could get the second half to focus as well as the first, which would make for a page-turning, but shorter first volume. Some of the tangential stories are interesting in their own right, but perhaps could be part of a companion volume of short stories that fill in gaps in the main narrative for die-hard fans who want to know all the intricacies worked out in the author's mind.

Omen (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi, Bk 2)
Omen (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi, Bk 2)
by Christie Golden
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.96
104 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor dialogue and a lack of innovation put the halt on a great start., August 28, 2011
What a terrific disappointment from the first book in the series. This book feels like a placeholder in the story. There are minor developments, but other than that, seems like a direct derivation from the previous book by Aaron Allston. Plot-wise, there are almost no new developments beyond the introduction of some shadowy new villains. In that respect, all Golden manages is an introduction too. Other than that, everything pretty much goes on it's humdrum way. More Jedi fall to the mysterious illness that consumed Valin Horn in book one, each one constituting a mini-crisis in the political conflict between Daala and the GA and the Jedi Order and provides a touch of action to an otherwise stale book that reads more like a travel diary than a Star Wars epic.

Making matters worse is the poor editing and poor writing by Golden. Maybe it's a pet peeve, but I really can't stand it when writers use dialogue to recap things for readers. There's a lot of, "Well let's not get ahead of ourselves gang. Remember last week, when __________?" and "Don't forget that two weeks ago this person did this and that's why." These things feel part of the narration or something that should be in an interior monologue. Not dialogue. It just feels clumsy and reveals the author's hand way too much. It makes it harder to immerse yourself in the story and visualize everything.

The other major disappointment, which I dearly hope is rectified by the next book, is the episodic and cyclic nature of the story. Feels like this saga is developing a bad habit where in each new book, a new Jedi goes crazy and causes havoc and Luke and Ben visit yet another world on their journey to find out what happened to Jacen Solo. Reminds me too much of the Smallville freak-of-the-week formula and I will be sorely disappointed if it continues.

Here's hoping to an improvement in the next book. The idea is solid, and so was the set-up. I just hope other authors can execute better than Golden.

Outcast (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi, Book 1)
Outcast (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi, Book 1)
by Aaron Allston
Edition: Hardcover
128 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great if you're following the series, but not a good starting point if you're new, August 22, 2011
Not a bad start to a new series. Allston is one of the better writers of the expanded universe and seems to be able to manage campy dialogue without it being too....well, campy. There's a lot of wry humor in some of the pairings for the simultaneously unfolding subplots that produce some witty banter in the usual enjoyable Star Wars vein, if you're into that sort of thing (and I most definitely am). There's nothing entirely complex about this novel and in general, the mysteries in even the longer EU stories aren't very intricate. This story follows an exiled Luke and Ben and continues the independent adventures of Han and Leia begun in Millennium Falcon. All-in-all the series takes some interesting turns here even for fans who've read just about everything the many EU authors have thrown into the mix.

This particular series benefits from a good dose of philosophical underpinning. At it's core, the question isn't about ruling the galaxy or mass extermination as they have been in the previous two or three major story arcs (though certainly that can be a developing subtext). Instead, the series is focusing on the developing role of the Jedi in galactic society. What is their role in the government? Are they an independent agency of the law? A consulting firm? Mediators? If so, who do they report to and what accountability is there if things should go awry within the order. There's a lot of legal wrangling going on in this first novel that's not particularly bad. You want to side with Luke and fan favorites, as a die hard Star Wars fan you never really question that they're good people doing the best they can and always doing the right thing....but still. Allston does a damn fine job complicating and muddying the picture. You can see the point Daala and her politicians have about the unchecked power and arrogance of the Order that's developed over the course of the series and the philosophy is sound and has real plot implications that are interesting to follow and watch develop.

Anyway, what's good is that Allston manages the dialogue in a manner that doesn't make you cringe, and while the plot is hardly subtle or intricate, there are some legitimate mysteries and new ideas that are worth investing your time in. Where did Jacen learn his new force techniques? Are there other Force sensitive adepts out there that do things and have different philosophies than the Jedi? Did some of those teachings drive Jacen to the dark side? Good questions. Recommended for those who've kept up with the EU. If you haven't, you probably won't find this to your liking and I'd recommend jumping into the series earlier.

Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)
Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)
by James Luceno
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
80 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A filler story that at least manages to capture Han and Leia in old age well., August 21, 2011
Ok, I realize I have a huge bias here, but I love Star Wars and even the mediocre stories have a warmth and familiarity to them that make me happy to read, and Millennium Falcon is no different. It's an interesting take in the Star Wars EU saga being that it's only a single novel in a field of multi-part epics lately, but it fills the gap between the events of the previous tragedy involving Jacen and the future and in the meantime reveals nuggets of information that Star Wars fans may have been scratching their heads at for quite some time.

Where did the Falcon come from? How did Han get her? Luceno constructs a decent, but not too mysterious and not too involved treasure hunt for the lost history of the Falcon and does so through layers of narrative and an overall organization that is interesting. While a former owner traces the lineage forward in time, the Solos trace it backward to a fateful intersection involving an 80 year old secret from the days of the Clone Wars. The newer characters introduced aren't that memorable, but Luceno gets the Solos down perfectly and manages to give a bit of personality to the anthropomorphic Falcon. Interspersed in the narrative are vignettes from the history of the EU with Han and the Falcon and at times, this book feels like an attempt to catch new readers up to speed with what's been going on in the SW universe since the original trilogy ended, mainly through the eyes of the ship that everyone recognizes and loves so much.

Fun reading for SW fans, but probably not that engaging or exciting for people not hugely invested in the characters and the mythos of the Star Wars universe itself.

Storm Front (Dresden Files)
Storm Front (Dresden Files)
by Jim Butcher
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.97
197 used & new from $1.66

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A mix of noir detective story and fantasy that has promise, but fails as a standalone novel., August 19, 2011
Okay, I wanted to like this. I really did. And it wasn't awful. In fact there's some good things going for this book, but it feels generic, predictable and quite a bit pulpy for me. If you're into the whole noir detective thing and crime stories narrated by that lonely P.I. with dangerous and beautiful female clients, cops and reporters chasing after him and a cheap stencil of his name on a door to an office with a rotating fan, this is the type of book for you. Not usually my field of interest, but there's magic! The idea of a wizard P.I. is kind of a novel one and on it's surface, it's appealing. Ultimately though, the novel falls victim to poor dialogue, the type of dry, self-deprecating first person narration you'd imagine over the same 150 detective movies from the 1930s and a rather uncomplicated plot as far as mysteries go. It's fairly easy to identify the Shadowman and put the pieces together yourself days before it even occurs to Dresden himself. As a consequence, there feels like there's a whole middle section where you're just waiting for him to figure it out so we can get on with the story. There just aren't many layers to this story the way there was in the world of Codex Alera to give it any sophistication or complexity. Maybe the fault lies in the collection and editing. The book was short, and feels more like a prelude to something bigger, but not satisfying in the way that Book One of Alera worked as a prelude to the greater epic in that word.

Altogether the book is super campy and would definitely appeal to fans of the contemporary magic genre. If that's your thing, I've definitely read worse and you would do well with Dresden Files. I've been assured that the series really picks up after book six (really, only after book six?) and for me the "good" of this book comes from some of the things Butcher sets up in the background, like the White Council and the bit of mystery surrounding Dresden's past himself. None of these are developed to any great depth in this book to its detriment. It feels like you don't even really get to know Dresden beyond the archetype P.I. The spells are kind of cool and the use of magic is not overbearing. The credit I give here is mainly in creating a world of magic set against the backdrop of the 21st century that isn't too hokey. There's a fun feel to this as well that tempts me to continue with the hope that it'll improve with some further development. Might pick up book two for some light reading in the future.

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)
A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.35
137 used & new from $2.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intricate, Taut and Satisfying Fantasy, August 16, 2011
This book is much, much better than its predecessor, mainly because there is a huge improvement in the pacing. Looking back, Game of Thrones is definitely about setting up arranging all the pieces to be in position for the action that follows in the sequel. While that seemed tedious at times, Clash of Kings definitely makes it worth the effort to get through. Twists and turns continue as the people of Westros play the Game of Thrones for control of the Seven Kingdoms. What strikes me the most (in a good way) about Kings is the way that Martin manages to deftly juggle subplot upon subplot. While the lords of the Seven Kingdoms jockey for power in an all-out war, North of the Wall the Black Brothers are tracking down a mystery that may change the face of the civil war in the south. Meanwhile, the East, across the Narrow Sea, the last scion of the former King is on a magical and exotic journey through a land that seems bizarre to say the least compared to Westros, a place where magic is born again and dangers lurk around every corner. Martin does a fantastic job at selecting characters for points of view of the action on all sides and each chapter ends on a tantalizing note that makes you want to continue forward. Again, the pacing is really good and just when you're about to find out what happens to Bran, we're whisked away to the other end of the world to find out what's happening with Daenerys. In spite of how that sounded, it's not annoying, and the title of each chapter brings all the action that was left off the last time we saw that character rushing back, making you eager to continue. Martin is politically savvy, does intrigue really, really well and manages to build likable, but extremely round characters. There are no fantasy archetypes here. They're buried under layers and layers of flaws that make some of the characters endearing, and others utterly repulsive.

So why not 5 stars? As much as an improvement this book was to the pacing of the series, it could still have used some heavy editing, particularly when it comes to the elaborate and inane descriptions of EVERY single meal that anyone sits down to eat. Every. Single. One. I get it. It's period-accurate and all that jazz, but you convinced me of that in the first book and through other aspects of this one. I don't need to know that Cersei is sitting down to a seven course meal with a three page long description of each of the courses as if I'm perusing the menu at a fine dining restaurant only to be confronted with the meal that Tyrion is eating in the middle of the next chapter. Were you hungry when you wrote this? Seems like it. Anyway, the descriptions just became tedious and I found myself skimming whenever Martin started to mention food. Two books in and I also still can't get used to the very uncomfortable descriptions of rape that seem remarkably casual given the gravity of the act. Again, I understand the whole Alan Moore of Fantasy effect he's going for, but at times, it seems tasteless and with all of Westros at war looting and pillaging neighbors, there were lots of moments that I felt were unnecessarily graphic. Yes, war is brutal and medieval medicine and gender roles and relations being what they were, etc., etc., but do you really have to take every opportunity possible to be so blunt about it? Call me a boy scout, but I just get tired of it after a while. I don't want or expect a G rated Fantasy. I like the grittiness of the series and its realism, but, as with Thrones, I just feel like sometimes it goes overboard.

Nevertheless, my personal proclivities aside, this is a very intelligent and suspenseful work of fiction that leaves other contemporary fantasy in the dust. It's intricate, well-developed and littered with amazing characters and page-turning tension. Well worth your time, even if fantasy is outside your usual reading ground.

How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival
How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival
by David Kaiser
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.54
88 used & new from $3.63

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kooky, but fun and enlightening. Kaiser manages a perfect mix of history, science and philosophy into a readable narrative., July 31, 2011
How the Hippies Saved Physics is a fantastically kooky and zany history of the fringes of physics research in the 1960s and 1970s. The premise is certainly intriguing. Kaiser argues that the Second World War and the Cold War had relegated physics in America to number crunching and practical applications of theory (mainly in the defense industry) and that all previous notions of fundamental questions all but dried up. The timing couldn't have been less fortunate, as the war followed close on the heels of the heady days of the major physical discoveries that led to the formulation of quantum mechanics as a whole by luminaries such as Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg and Schrodinger in the 1920s and 1930s. This was a time when great philosophical questions concerning the nature of reality should have been asked, but the academic institutions of American were mainly concerned with churning out PhDs to compete with the Soviets. In short, if you weren't doing something practical in physics like producing better nuclear weapons or radar invisible materials, you weren't doing real physics. According to Kaiser, a select group of Hippy physicists centered in Berkeley called the Fundamental Fysiks Group provided a venue for physicists interested in fundamental questions to keep the burning questions at the heart of physics alive for a future, post-Cold War era.

it's an interesting argument, and Kaiser is quite even-handed in the weight he assigns to fringe physicists in important discoveries in spite of the grandiose title. Mainly, these physicists in their study of things like ESP and other elements of parapsychology and the connections between quantum mechanics (particularly the issue of nonlocality) were wrong more often than they were right. Their importance lay in the fact that they kept the torch burning for the pursuit of fundamental questions, and, Kaiser notes, their highly public mistakes and deviations paved the way for more mainstream thinkers to make advances in the field of physics - particularly in subfields like laser technology and quantum encryption and computing.

All in all, Kaiser has done his homework on the historical and scientific sides. More importantly, he can write! The story unfolds interestingly enough and he brings a touch of elliptical structure to the narrative that gives just enough ambiguity in the beginning for you to wonder, "How the heck are these flower-power-mystically-oriented 'physicists' going to actually contribute to cutting age science and technology coming into maturity today?" Along the way, Kaiser delves into the personal lives and scandals facing the members of the group, tracing the evolution of their lives as the field of physics changed around them. It's an intriguing and unlikely story presented from an innovative angle. I don't quite agree 100% that the Hippies literally saved physics in the sense that Kaiser seems to think they did. Mainstream physics was surely undergoing huge changes, particularly in particle physics and in the development of esoteric theories of everything like String Theory quite independent of the New Left movement. Brilliant minds like John Wheeler, Richard Feynman, Freeman Dyson, Ed Witten and Leonard Susskind were revolutionizing the field in America while maintaining quite a bit of distance from the core group of Hippies and their benefactors identified by Kaiser. Nor were the crew of the Fundamental Fysiks Group the only ones asking foundational questions about how to interpret quantum mechanics. While the Copenhagen Interpretation had its foundation in the 1920s and 30s, other interpretations and QM formalisms were still being developed - and in America nonetheless (Hugh Everett's Many Worlds Interpretation developed in the late 50s and popularized by Bryce DeWitt in the 60s and 70s being one of the most popular). This reinterpretation most certainly did not come out of the Hippy movement and does show that there were people out there interested in the big philosophical questions surrounding the New Physics. Nevertheless, it's a fun story and the bulk of Kaiser's argument is almost certainly correct, especially when it comes to popularizing Bell's Theorem and focusing on the issue of nonlocality as part of the future of physics. Plus, I don't think there's a work quite like it out there and if you're a child of the era or a fan of popular science in general, you'll be highly pleased with this book.

Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base
Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base
by Annie Jacobsen
Edition: Hardcover
185 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compelling history of the Cold War with Area 51 on the margins, but Jacobsen leaves reality by the end., July 29, 2011
It's hard to know what to make of Jacobsen's new history of Area 51. I like conspiracy theories. They're fun, interesting and zany (even if unbelievable) and the idea that a reporter was going to attempt an above-board history of America's most secret installation was a thrilling idea. The first few chapters read really well and the book seems for the most part a great history of the Cold War with special emphasis on espionage programs the US and the USSR were running and how those programs fit into the wider events that we know much more about, like the Cuban Missile Crisis or the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Throughout, Area 51 and the enigmatic and charismatic people who worked there seem to dot the horizon of the story, inserting themselves in logical places in the narrative to fill gaps in our understanding of the history of the Area. There were large sections of the book where the installation is hardly mentioned at all or is mentioned only in connection with a program or event - and I didn't mind. The narrative was compelling and interesting enough to stand on its own without constant reference to conspiracy or secrets. A lot of the information about the day-to-day operation of the facility, especially its involvement in the development of spy aircraft like the U2 or A12 are well-researched and solidly grounded. Excerpts from Area 51 employee memoirs or recently declassified information makes the first historical parts of this book a worthy addition to the history of the Cold War.

As other reviewers have mentioned, Jacobsen tends to make some rather routine and simple errors in her science that should have been caught by a dutiful editor. And while the historical and biographical aspects of the work tend to be top-notch, the science languishes. In and of itself, this is probably not a problem for the lay reader. I seriously doubt anybody will be using Jacobsen's work as a bibliographic reference for information on aerospace engineering or rocket science, and again, that information is besides the true purpose of the book, which is a revealing look at the role 'The Ranch' played in the Cold War, so I'm willing to overlook this as well.

The problem arises in the latter chapter of the book. Jacobsen's 'new' account of what really happened at Roswell is an interesting idea and a fantastic story, but quite frankly fails several journalistic tests for credibility. After such thorough research for the first part of her book, Jacobsen then relies on the testimony of a single, unnamed and unidentifiable individual as the source for the 'truth' of the Roswell crash; specifically, that the UFO recovered at Roswell was of Soviet design and filled with genetically altered people (by a resurgent Josef Mengele, now in the employ of Stalin) to look like aliens and designed to cause a panic in the US akin to the nationwide panic that followed the War of the Worlds broadcast. -___- Ok. Granted. Stalin was impressed by how ludicrous people behaved and the US government expressed concerns about the susceptibility and gullibility of the American populace when presented with misinformation. The core of the idea does have a ring of truth to it. But the lack of source substantiation for such a wild claim makes it just as far out there and cooky as any of the other explanations for what really happened at Roswell and was extremely disappointing after such a strong start - so disappointing that the rather good experience I had in the first half of the book all but evaporated.

I'd still recommend the work for people with an interest in either conspiracy theories or the Cold War, just remember to take the unattributed statements with a grain of salt and remember that conspiracy theories are meant to be fun.

The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe
The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe
by Steven L. Weinberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.98
122 used & new from $1.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A classic that probably reads better to someone "in the know" than someone with no knowledge of cosmology., July 29, 2011
Weinberg's classic of cosmology still reads well, even if it is a bit dated. This is not a book for the lay person, though. The book is filled with complicated and rigorous mathematical formalisms and has an appendix that doesn't' shy away from the quantitative work that went into reconstructing the universe in the minutes that followed the Big Bang itself. You could get through it, but if you're shy of math, there are certainly more recent and updated works on the origins of the universe that contain much simpler explanations for physical processes and the technicalities of experimental verification covered in The First Three Minutes.

The First Three Minutes is still an enjoyable read, even after over thirty years since the original date of publication. Newer editions have an updated afterword by Weinberg that discusses "recent" developments on cosmology and astrophysics that updates the picture he painted so many decades ago, but even this afterword falls short. It fails, for example, to take into account the discovery of the accelerated expansion of the universe or the updated evolutionary models for the universe's development through the introduction of newer concepts like dark matter and dark energy. (In fact the second chapter on still suggests that the expansion of the universe should be slowing down due to gravity.) These shortcoming don't' really detract from the overall purpose of the book. The fact is, the universe is expanding and the logic that you should be able to rewind the expansion to infer a big bang and a time when the universe was hot and dense, still holds true as do most of the scientific facts and inductions Weinberg presents for the nature of the universe in its earliest configurations.

In short, the book is well organized and a popular reader with a little background in physics will find it enjoyable. Weinberg lays the foundation for his speculations and reasoning in the first and second chapter where he examines the tools and clues that he'll use to paint his picture of the early universe - namely observations of its rate of expansion and the leftover cosmic microwave background. Readers of popular science books should be familiar with these stories and concepts. The book then proceeds to examine the evolution of the universe in the first fractions of a second and first few minutes followed by a chapter on speculations for the future development of the universe. This latter chapter suffers from the same deficit of understanding as the first chapter and Weinberg's cool confidence in the future contraction of the universe and an ultimate Big Crunch scenario seems naive by today's standards and in light of the knowledge of universal acceleration.

My advice: read this book. It was a landmark for its time, but pay more attention to the middle chapters than the end or the beginning. If you're uncertain in your basic understanding of physical principles or cosmology, you might try reading A Brief History of Time: The Updated and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition first or even Sean Carroll's From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time first. If you're a student of physics or astronomy, or even slightly more than a lay person, Weinbergs more rigorous mathematical treatment can seem like a treasure trove that further enlightens basic concepts introduced in more casual works.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2012 10:36 PM PDT

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10