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Odyssey of the Gods

Book Review of: Odyssey of the Gods

The History of Extraterrestrial Contact in Ancient Greece

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Review of Odyssey of the Gods, by Erich von Daniken (Softcover. Copyright 2012; released in 2011)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


This is another entertaining, well-written, and informative book from Erich von Daniken. The usual elements of witty writing, intense research, lots of minutiae, logical analysis, and questioning of orthodoxy are all present. Somehow, von Daniken manages to cover the same underlying theme (the gods of ancient times were actually aliens from another planet or other planets) from a different and interesting perspective with each book.

These comments from my review of Twilight of the Gods apply also to Odyssey of the Gods:

His iconic book, Chariot of the Gods, not only fueled a counterculture but also became a hit in the main culture. Even after some three dozen books, Erich von Daniken continues to enrapt readers with his provocative thinking, irrefutable evidence, and clear logic. Plus some anomalies that have astute readers grimacing....

Whether his information and conclusions are correct is almost irrelevant to many readers (count me in that group). His books are always worth reading, because they are a pleasure to read. Even with so many books under his belt, von Daniken has written yet another jewel.

Now, for my comments that are specific to Odyssey of the Gods.

As usual, von Daniken takes his shots at archeologists, but in this book he seems to make an unusual effort to avoid going out on any limbs with those comments. I'd hate to be the archeologist in charge of debating the specific errors von Daniken brings up in this book, because I'd have to resort to illogic and lying to prevail. Normally, von Daniken leaves himself open to easy counterargument. He usually gives his opponents the opportunity to cast doubt on everything he says by summarily destroying individual points he brings up. This time, I didn't see that.

And, as usual, he does leave himself open to counterargument by his usual analysis through his mono-lens of "aliens were here." But, as with his other books, those counterarguments are hard to mount.

In Odyssey, the title of the book clues us in as to what his main reference will be. Yep, Homer's Odyssey. His analysis is thought-provoking, partly because it flies in the face of conventional wisdom (or lack thereof) and partly because it's logical.

von Daniken doesn't just stick to Homer. He also looks at Plato. Something interesting about Plato was his reference to a copper/gold alloy called orichalcum. A metallurgist is likely to tell you that Plato must have made this up because the technology to make that alloy simply did not exist at that time. I may be incorrect, but I believe that technology does not yet exist. So, how did this alloy get made? Or was Plato doing some serious reefer?

The answer may lie in von Daniken's discussion of some very old paper-thin gold alloy sheets found Ecuador, or in some other metallurgical oddities that von Daniken discusses. Some of these are quite extreme, and as I understand, beyond current capabilities to produce.

In addition to analyzing various aspects of the Odyssey and related works from the text, von Daniken looks some "coincidences" in the geography. Take, for example, his analysis of where the cities of ancient Greece and surrounding areas were in relation to each other. They form a network of spokes that are the same length. von Daniken believes these cities were sited for the purpose of aviation.

That might be easy to scoff at, except there's no way the people of those times could survey those distances over that terrain (hilly, mountainous, and no line of sight). In fact, this arrangement didn't become known to modern folks until after World War II. And why would the ancients bother to site these cities at precise distances and angles? von Daniken ventures why (aviation) and brings some other facts into his analysis to provide a convincing argument.

What I don't understand about this book is his significant digression into the subject of Atlantis. That seems like a topic for a different book. I don't really see that it belongs in this book, except as a separate chapter or appendix. This book wasn't about disproving theories A, B, and C about the location of Atlantis. Yet, he wove that into the book and I think it just did not fit into the text where it was. The effect was that I lost momentum as a reader. However, it wasn't boring--just out of place.

Throughout the book, you'll find black and white photos of fairly good quality. These are helpful. About halfway through, there's a series of pages containing color photographs. These also add to the book.

This book spans 191 pages of content. In addition, it has a short Preface, an index, and About the Author. It consists of seven chapters; six of those are numbered 1 - 6 and the seventh is simply titled "A Final Word About Atlantis."

Another extract from  my review of Twilight of the Gods: Yes, von Daniken is controversial. That does make his books entertaining. But that isn't their only value. He also raises questions that are impossible to answer via our current "book of knowledge." His "alternative" explanation, namely extraterrestrials, becomes the only sensible explanation almost by default.

While von Daniken does not always get his facts right, there is a fact that is yet again proven by this book. The purchase of a von Daniken book is never a waste of money.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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