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Gonzales effortlessly weaves quantam mechanics, spirituality, psychology and James Bond into
a fascinating book that is at first glance about physical survival, but it can be used as a metaphor for many facets of human experience.
I'm in awe of how Gonzales uses information from such diverse sources - yet it all fits so logically. I can't say enough good about this book. It's intelligent, educational, emotional, and entertaining. And finally - the perfect narrator as a bonus.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful
This book was fascinating to me, but I have to be honest, the conclusion of the book made me regret spending time reading it. I expected this book to be stories of survival and then after recounting the story, the author would explain why that person survived, why they didn't, or what they could do better.
In reality, this book is much more physiological and scientific. Many of the chapters speak about the physiology of the brain and what occurs during stressed situations. How parts of your brain shut down and others engage. If you enjoy science, this will fascinate you. No other survival book has spoke so much about the physiological and psychological effects of survival and more importantly, how to train your brain to be better in survival situations.
I like that the book focuses that survival is more than wilderness survival. It can be survival during financial troubles, business troubles, divorce, and death of others.
One of the essences of the book the author repeats, is that in survival situations you will do things that make no sense, things you would never do if you were at home, you make clearly stupid decisions. When you are in a survival situation you have little control over what happens, your brain owns you and very likely might make decisions which will kill you. After all the brain (as the author explains) is not designed to work in a way of your personal self-interest, but to benefit the future-interest of the species in general and future evolution. There is incredible supporting evidence to this theory as explained throughout the book. The author is also a very strong believer in other (semi-controversial) scientific theories such as "Chaos Theory", "Complexity Theory", and "Normal Accident Theory".
The first two thirds of the book was really interesting, but the last third was only mediocre. I feel like the book was clearly written at two time periods of the authors life. The first 2/3 of the book is very clear and concise. It is like the author has discovered the secret to survival and wants to share it with you, with enthusiasm. It sounds like a young man, optimistic that he has discovered the fountain of youth. The last 1/3 is incredible cynical, you can hear the sadness in the author's voice. It's like the author wrote the first part, then it sat on a shelf for 20 years, and later he decided to finish it. During that lapse in time he discovered that there really is no secret. His pessimism is apparently, and he repeats "Sometimes good survivors die, and bad survivors live, there is a lot of luck involved." The last third of the book is also much less organized and thought-through. It is jumbled together in large chapters that don't have a good sense of separation, leading to my idea that they are essentially ramblings. This is in stark contrast to the beginning which is incredibly focused and organized.
He continues by telling stories at the end of his pilot buddies who died when they did everything "right" and then how idiots have survived even after clearly making stupid decisions. He repeatedly drives home how unrelentingly un-fair life is. The ending of the book was clearly more personal for him. The stories at the end are all people he knew, compared to beginning of the book were stories of strangers he studied about through accident reports and interviews. The book even ends explaining, "We are all going to f*cking die, either in a plane crash or by cancer, you might as well go out living." Although there is some truth to that, I found it incredibly disappointing conclusion. I spent 10 hours listening to this book, and at the end the author makes it sound like it doesn't matter. The end of the book sounded to me, like the endless ramblings of a dying man. It seemed that he implied that he was wrong about what he wrote in the first part. I was really frustrated with that conclusion, after such an amazing composition of stories and data presented at the beginning, we end with a cynical view of hopelessness. The beginning and end of the book are so polar, I can't believe that the publisher published the book in this condition.
The Narrator did a great job though. 5 Stars to the Narrator.
22 of 23 people found this review helpful