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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Odyssey of the Gods: The History of Extraterrestrial Contact in Ancient Greece (audiobook) by Erich Von Däniken

More of the same from Von Däniken, but it is still interesting and entertaining.

Read by William Dufris
Duration: 7.5 hours
Published in October of 2011 by Tantor Audio

Erich Von Däniken’s bestselling 1968 book Chariots of the Gods? helped to popularize what is now known as the “ancient astronaut” theory. This theory was featured in the 1970s NBC documentary In Search Of Ancient Astronauts and has even made it to Hollywood with the X-Files and the latest installment of the Indiana Jones movies. In short, the theory is that humanity, thousands of years ago, was visited by aliens who built gigantic structures such as the pyramids and Stonehenge and were mistaken for gods by our ancestors. They are the inspiration behind much of the ancient mythology around the world and the fantastic beasts included in many of those myths are actually the result of genetic experimentation.

Von Däniken looks at three tales of ancient Greece and applies his broader ideas to those tales. The three tales are: 1) Jason and the Argonauts; 2) The Iliad/The Odyssey; 3) Atlantis. A great of deal of time in this audiobook is spent simply reciting these stories (easily one-third of the audiobook) and then stopping from time to time to offer insight based on his theories and fitting them back into his larger theory by noting how some aspects of the stories are similar to other tales from other ancient cultures, such as the Assyrians, ancient India, ancient Israel and even the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas.

As one can imagine, Von Däniken offers an interesting perspective on these stories. All of the creatures and heroes are the result of alien/human crossbreeding or genetic manipulation. Von Däniken allows no room for exaggeration – every tale is taken at face value, especially if it has great detail. He asserts that unnecessary detail in a story makes it less likely to be fiction (because no one would waste their time in creating it), which prompted me to wonder if he had ever read anything about the immense amount of unpublished extra details that J.R.R. Tolkein created just to lay down the backstory for his tales of Middle Earth.

Nonetheless, I did not listen to Von Däniken’s Odyssey of the Gods to look for a fight. As a history teacher, I truly enjoy a multitude of perspectives on history. I really do not take his entire theory seriously but he does, up to a certain point, have a valid question: how did our ancestors build giant pyramids and cities and create entire mythologies when they were literally just a few generations from being unorganized farming villages? It is a giant leap to go from simple farmers to highly organized priesthoods, advanced mathematics and the ability to build with multi-ton stones hauled from far away quarries and right now history has only the vaguest of answers as to how this happened. Throw in historical quirks like the Piri Reis map and the geometric web pattern that he claims covers all of the holy sites of ancient Greece and you have some good reasons to at least give Von Däniken a chance to lay out his theory.

Von Däniken is featured in an audiobook-exclusive interview after the book. His rather strong Swiss-German accent does nothing to hide his enthusiasm and infectious nature  – you just have to like him no matter what you think of his ideas. It is also obvious that the reader, William Dufris, strived to catch that aspect of his voice while reading the book. He did a remarkable job of reading the book and making it seem less like a textbook and more like an exceptionally well-presented seminar.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Odyssey of the Gods.

Reviewed on November 22, 2011.

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