The Death of the USS Thresher
The Story Behind History's Deadliest Submarine Disaster
Author Norman Polmar
Narrated by Sean Crisden
Publication date Apr 18, 2017
Running time 5 hrs 7 min
Courtesy Tantor Audio
The loss of the USS Thresher was the worst submarine disaster in US history with 129 souls lost. The Thresher was the first of a new class of bigger, faster nuclear submarines. In the early 1960’s, master of the seas was the growing area of the cold war arms race. Both sides were constructing submarines that could operate longer underwater, penetrate foreign waters undetected and launch nuclear warheads.
The Death of the USS Thresher begins by detailing the history of the boat from it’s days in the shipyard to its trials and return to the shipyard for refits. The Thresher was designed to dive deeper than any submarine ever made. Her classified depth was around 1300 feet. On the run to test it’s deep diving capabilities, something went horribly wrong. The Thresher was crushed by the pressure of the water at about 2400 feet. The catastrophic events that lead to her sinking left her falling into the crush level depths without hope of recovery.
Norman Polmar wrote the book in 1964, about a year after the disaster. The book was reissued in 2001. Polmar does a good job of explaining what happened on the Thresher, how the failure of restart procedures for nuclear plant left her unable to use her propeller and a defect in her emergency blow system which caused moisture in the air to freeze as it was pushed into the ballast tanks blocking the airflow. This prevented the submarine from blowing to reach the surface. There were terrifying minutes as the crew scrambled to save the boat. When it hit the crush depth, it was instantaneous implosion.
Polmar discusses the inquiries into the disaster and the arrival at the cause. He also talks about the development of the SUBSAFE program to prevent similar disasters. The only other US submarine lost, the USS Scorpion in 1968, was not SUBSAFE certified. The changes SUBSAFE made in the building and handling of the boats, especially in crisis situations, much safer. In the years since no boat, other than the Scorpion, has been lost. There have been accidents and loss of life but no total losses such as the Thresher and Scorpion has occurred. “The entire process was rewritten after the loss. All systems on submarines were redesigned after the accident, as with almost all safety rules, they are written in blood.” stated Rick Geddes TMC (SS) USN (RET).
The audiobook continues on to discuss the history of submarine accidents and the various steps taken to develop rescue plans. It really is a fascinating history. Submarines have always held a special place in my varied interests. The extremely cool technology and their capabilities is balanced against the terror I personally would feel being in a small compartment under the crushing pressure of the ocean. I have a special admiration for those who go to sea by going under it, especially my cousin Rick Geddes TMC (SS) USN (RET). Sean Crisden is a very good narrator. He is clear. His voice is even. This is a narration, not a performance, which is perfect for this particular book. The production values and volume remain consistently good.
If you are fascinated by submarines and/or disasters at sea, The Death of the USS Thresher is an educational and enjoyable listen. While you listen, keep in mind those 129 souls whose loss created safer submarine conditions for all who came after.
Written by: Arkady Strugatsky , Boris Strugatsky , Olena Bormashenko (translator)
Narrated by: Robert Forster
Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins
Publisher: Random House Audio
Roadside Picnic is a classic of science fiction. It is also a testimony to perseverance on the part of the authors who wrote under Soviet censorship. The forward by renown science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin is a fantastic explanation of how the book was received when first published in the 1970;s. The afterward by Boris Strugatsky details the fight to get the book published by the Soviet censors.
The premise of Roadside Picnic is that the earth has been visited by aliens. In six areas of the world, they have come and gone, leaving only their debris or garbage behind. Five of these areas are on land. By the end of the day of the visit, the Zones are declared off limits. Eventually world scientific organizations set up on the borders of the Zones and begin to study the visible and invisible. Some of the items in the Zone are powerful energy sources. Some of areas of intense gravity that crush men and vehicles flat. There are also organic life forms that cannot be studied because they kill all who get near them. Thirteen years later they are still being studied.
No one except scientist are allowed into the Zones. The trade in the black market for items smuggled out of the Zone is huge. The money to be made makes it worth the risk for these smugglers or "stalkers" to enter the Zone at night risking their lives. They are also risking more. Stalkers who frequently run the risk of the Zones find they have severe mutations in their children born after they begin venturing into the Zone. The book prefigured many of the issues surrounding the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
It really is an amazing book that really must be read. Or even better, listened to. Robert Forster does a great job narrating the book. Roadside Picnic, although written by two Russian brothers, takes place in Canada. Forster keeps his voice in somewhat of a neutral accent but he conveys the toughness of the main character, Red. Red's frustration with the problems of living with the Zone and the issues it causes comes through very well in the narration.
Roadside Picnic is a great book. It has all the tension of a thriller, all the science of a science fiction, all the character development of a great literary novel and it is an exciting audiobook. The Forward by Ms. Le Guin is really important to listen to before the book itself. It helps put the importance of the novel in the listeners mind as they hear the incredible story of Stalkers and the risks they take to provide for their families.
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature
Written by: The Great Courses
Narrated by: Professor Pamela Bedore
Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins
Series: Genre Fiction
Publisher: The Great Courses
I won a free Audible credit from the Audiobook Addicts facebook group. I chose The Great Courses title Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature. I have enjoyed many of the Great Courses before and the topic really appealed to me. Professor Bedore does a fantastic job of presenting the material while keeping it very interesting for the listener. The course has twenty-four lessons totalling over twelve hours.
The course begins with a discussion of what Utopian and Dystopian mean. The next lesson starts the discussion of the first Utopian work by Thomas More. There are several lessons covering the other Utopian writers such as Swift and H. G. Wells. The course then moves on to the Dystopias. It covers much more than Orwell's 1984. The breath of the course is really amazing. It covers The Hunger Games and the Apocalyptic works of this century. The final lesson is on the future of the two genres.
The accompandy course guide, in Adobe pdf format, is amazing. It is over two hundred and forty pages of information. Each lesson has an outline of what is covered and a Suggested Reading section as well as Questions to consider. The Bibliography at the end is incredible. It is going to populate my to read list for years to come.
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature was a very enjoyable and educational audiobook. I would recommend it for anyone who reads Utopian or Dystopian genres.
Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland by Dr John Burt, Kathryn Burtinshaw
Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots
A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland
by Dr John Burt, Kathryn Burtinshaw
Pen & Sword
Pub Date 30 Apr 2017
Courtesy of Netgalley
Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland by Dr John Burt and Kathryn Burtinshaw was a challenging read but a very fascinating one. The authors detail how the mentally ill were cared for before the nineteenth century. They also delve into legislation that was meant to reform their care. Several chapters describe the care of the mentally ill in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
The description of life in an asylum was fascinating. It really was much more humane than it eventually became. There were open spaces. Music, art and gardens were part of the patients’ lives. The patients were kept clean and physically healthy.
An attempted assassination of King George III changed the way the criminally insane were treated. At first they were housed with other mentally ill. Eventually they were housed by themselves. The case studies included in different sections were fascinating. The chapter on treatments was disturbing.
It is interesting to see how these asylums were originally created to be. The way they degenerate into houses of horror by the end of the nineteenth century is extremely sad. The mentally ill are treated more as animals than humans who are in need of medical care. If you are interested in the history of the treatment of the mentally ill, I recommend this book. It can be a slog with some of the dense information but it is worth it.
The Witchfinder's Sister
by Beth Underdown
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Pub Date 25 Apr 2017
The Witchfinder's Sister is the debut novel by Beth Underdown. Her first novel. I need to make sure that is stated up front because it is an absolutely amazing read. I was totally drawn into Alice's story. The book opens with Alice being kept prisoner in a locked room under orders of her brother Matthew Hopkin's, the infamous witchfinder of English history. As the book circles back and tells the story of Alice and her family, I could not help but fear for her safety. Each chapter increased the dread for what would happen to her.
The book takes place during the English Civil War. The story begins in the spring of 1645 and ends in the summer of 1648. Alice is witness to her brother's hunt for witches and his methods for identifying them. This is the mindset, the philosophy, that gave birth to America's own witch hunts. It is truly frightening on several levels. Any woman who was different, perhaps mentally ill or independent or quarrelsome with her neighbors was fair game for being accused. Once accused there was no way to prove one's innocence, only one's guilt. The author does a fantastic job of illustrating these details without losing the reader's interest.
Although this period of English history is not very familiar to me, I am now very interested in learning more of it. Did this witch paranoia come from the chaos of the civil war or from the religious philosophy of those fighting the crown? How could a woman defend herself if accused? Was there any chance for being acquitted at all? Alice is a fantastic guide through this nightmare world. She is a reliable narrator who is horrified by what she witnesses but finds herself powerless to help any of the accused, even to help herself.
I highly recommend Beth Underdown's debut novel The Witchfinder's Sister. It is a compelling, tense but ultimately enjoyable read.
Red Spring continues the excellence in storytelling I found in the first two books of the Black Year Series, Black Fall and White Winter. In the Black Fall, we were introduced to Jonas Black, a 16 year old whose life went pear shaped when he discovered the truth about his family and his world. As Black Fall gave way to White Winter, Jonas’s world was in flames. He struggled to try to prevent his vision of causing an apocalypse from coming true.
Red Spring shows Jonas’s stumbling from one decision to the next. He makes decisions from a place of darkness and confusion. He also keeps secrets from those who love him. While he blamed his parents for raising him in a life constructed of lies, he justifies his own lies as trying to protect people and prevent his vision from coming true. New allies and enemies are introduced as well as old friends becoming enemies.
The pacing of the book is terrific. Like the previous books, the tension is balanced by humor. For example one of my favorite lines is, “Jonas, she’s not the most complicated woman in the world. She has the depth of a kiddie pool built for Smurfs.” The battle scenes are great. About three quarters of the way through the book there is an absolute shocker. I was caught completely off guard. What happens next is certainly not anti-climactic.
Red Spring is a story arc complete unto itself but it does need to be read after the first two books to get the full story. It does end in a cliffhanger but has only left me more excited for the final book of the series.
I received a copy of the Red Spring from the author in exchange for an honest review.