Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil deGrasse Tyson

I have nothing but respect for Dr. Tyson as an educator and worthy successor to the great Carl Sagan.  When I came across this audiobook on Audible, I hesitated only briefly.  Why did I hesitate?  Because it’s not narrated by Tyson.  It’s narrated by Mirron Willis.  I’m going to talk about that first.  This narration is terrible.  That’s why this book gets 4 stars instead of 5.  Willis’ diction is so cartoonishly precise, I sometimes thought I was getting a narration from a text-to-speech program.  The pauses he puts in between words sound as though he’s sometimes trying to out parody all of the bad William Shatner impersonators out there.  Then he mispronounces common things.  Magellan’s name doesn’t have a hard “g” sound in it.  Saturn V rockets are not pronounced “Saturn Vee.”  That’s a Roman numeral, you twit!  It’s a FIVE!  You know, 5?  The last time I was this angry about obvious stupidity of this nature, I was listening to James Bond audios where people were saying “oh-oh-seven” instead of “double-oh seven.”  Yeah, yeah, I know.  Been down that rabbit hole before too, and 50+ years of pop culture says it’s only done one way in English, which is the language of Bond.  Grr!

Moving past that.  The book is so incredibly awesome that the narration isn’t enough to kill it.  If anything, my imagination kept trying to fill in a better narration for me because I watch so much of Dr. Tyson’s channel on Pluto TV that I’m intimately familiar with his voice and cadences.

So what is this book actually about?  Science, of course!  Dr. Tyson discusses space exploration… what we face, what we might see, what challenges we need to meet, the wonders of what we think we know or outright don’t know…  Anything related to space exploration seems up for grabs in this book as a topic.  He talks about the history of spaceflight, NASA’s budget, his thoughts on the Apollo 11 moon landing, the shuttle program, future ventures to the moon or Mars, alien life, UFOs, and even his thoughts on Star Trek.  Even as cynical as some bits sound, the bulk of it is framed in the same positive and hopeful tones that I’ve come to expect, combined with the same power to make me grin when he drops facts of considerable magnitude.  If you love science and space exploration, if you’re a fan of Dr. Tyson and his work, read this.  But get the print version.  Seriously, the narrator on this blows goats, and even the goats aren’t happy about it.

4 stars


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