History Decoded

History Decoded: The Ten Greatest Conspiracies of All Time

‘HISTORY DECODED: THE 10 GREATEST CONSPIRACIES OF ALL TIME’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

What if I told you that you could find an overview of ten of the world’s most famous conspiracy theories in a single book?


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

A New York Times Bestseller
A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
It’s an irresistible combination: Brad Meltzer, a born storyteller, counting down the world’s most intriguing unsolved mysteries. And to make this richly illustrated book even richer, each chapter invites the reader along for an interactive experience through the addition of removable facsimile documents—the evidence! It’s a treasure trove for conspiracy buffs, a Griffin and Sabine for history lovers.
Adapted from Decoded, Meltzer’s hit show on the History network, History Decoded explores fascinating, unexplained questions. Is Fort Knox empty? Why was Hitler so intent on capturing the Roman “Spear of Destiny?” What’s the government hiding in Area 51? Where did the Confederacy’s $19 million in gold and silver go at the end of the Civil War? And did
Lee Harvey Oswald really act alone? Meltzer sifts through the evidence; weighs competing theories; separates what we know to be true with what’s still—and perhaps forever—unproved or unprovable; and in the end, decodes the mystery, arriving at the most likely solution. Along the way we meet Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Nazi propagandists, and the real DB Cooper.
Bound in at the beginning of each story is a custom-designed envelope—a faux nineteenth-century leather satchel, a US government classified file—containing facsimiles of relevant evidence: John Wilkes Booth’s alleged unsigned will, a map of the Vatican, Kennedy’s death certificate. The whole is a riveting, interactive adventure through the compelling world of mysteries and conspiracies.
© 2013 by A&E Television Networks, LLC


THE PLOT:

I have a love/hate relationship with the TV series ‘Brad Meltzer’s Decoded’ which aired for two seasons on the History channel. There were moments that I found the show intriguing and thought provoking. There were also moments when I expected the inclusion of a laugh track. This is relevant information because ‘History Decoded’ is adapted from the television series.
Conspiracy theories are pretty common in this day and age. Anyone with enough time and interest can set up a blog and claim almost anything to be true. More importantly, they can find an audience willing to believe their crazy theories. We live in a world where, despite the fact that the simplest explanation is often the correct one, it is also the least interesting. I think people believe in conspiracies because they are constantly in search of a good story.
The other reason that people are willing to believe in conspiracy theories is that many of them involve the United States government. The government’s credibility seems to evaporate a little more with each passing year. People do not trust the government and have many good reasons not to do so. As a result, if the U.S. government says that there is no evidence of extraterrestrial life having visited earth, people are naturally going to be suspicious. After all, the government is constantly caught lying about other matters, so why not that one?
Brad Meltzer is a good storyteller who specializes in thrillers. He explains in the introduction that his interest in conspiracy theories began in his eleventh grade history class when he saw a documentary on the Kennedy assassination. This book compiles Meltzer’s top ten favorite conspiracy theories into one place, gives an overview of each and provides “evidence” for and against some of the claimed conspiracies.
If you were a fan of ‘Decoded’ then you are not likely to learn anything new from reading this book. All of these events were covered on the TV series and with the same amount of depth. I realized that this book wasn’t really designed for the hardcore conspiracy buff. It better serves as an introduction to some famous conspiracy theories and is meant to get the reader questioning their own beliefs.
The number one conspiracy theory is the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Meltzer states at the beginning of the chapter that you can’t really do it justice in one chapter and he is correct. Outside of Jesus Christ, no subject has been written about more than the Kennedy assassination, and keep in mind that event occurred a mere 50 years ago. The key people are discussed, some questions asked and a few claims are debunked. The trouble for this reviewer is that I got bored at times because I had heard most of this information previously.
My favorite chapter dealt with the Confederate gold. This illustrates my theory about the intent of the book. I was the least familiar with this one and so it provides a good starting point for me to do follow-up research if I so choose. It laid out the story and some of the key questions and theories surrounding what might have happened to the Confederate treasury. You can throw in a secret coded language for good measure. I found it to be a lot of fun, even though I am no more certain of where the Confederate gold might be than I was when I started reading the chapter.


THE AUTHOR:

I am more familiar with Meltzer from television than I am from any of his works of fiction. I will say that his writing style matches up pretty well with the way he comes across on television. In basic terms, he talks the same way that he writes. Reading this book is a lot like getting on a ride that is part roller coaster and part tilt-a-whirl. You’re taken in a lot of different directions in a pretty short amount of time. It can keep you on the edge of your seat but doesn’t always allow for much time to process what you have learned.
I appreciate the fact that Meltzer tells you straight out what he does and doesn’t believe as he walks you through each conspiracy. You might say that it is the author’s way of swaying you to his bias. I disagree, I believe that when he gives his opinion, it allows the reader to have an understanding of what Meltzer’s bias may be and decide on their own whether or not they agree with him. The bottom line is that when he tells you what he thinks, you don’t have to worry about a potential hidden bias, he puts it right on the table in front of you.


THE NARRATION:

Scott Brick deserves every award he earns for reading audiobooks. In this case, it helps that he has read many of Meltzer’s other titles, so he is familiar with the methods and tone of the author. He reads this book in what I can only describe as a conspiratorial tone. If you have ever been pulled out of a large gathering by someone so they could tell you a secret, then you have a good idea of what I am talking about. His narration perfectly matches up with the subject matter.


THE PRODUCTION:

The book has an introduction and each conspiracy theory is a separate chapter. So there are a total of eleven tracks included here. The quality of the audio is what you would hope it would be. Everything was clear with no changes in audio level, and no glitches were found. There are no background effects or musical cues found in the audio.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

If you are a conspiracy buff, you can probably take a pass on this one. I don’t think it breaks any new ground on any of the ten conspiracies Meltzer profiles. You have likely heard everything before and in much greater detail.
If you are a newcomer to the world of conspiracy theories or are a fan of Brad Meltzer in general, then I would give this book a recommendation. It serves as a good overview of some of the more popular conspiracy theories out there and is a good jumping off point. It is a nice resource for a reader to assess which of these he or she might like to study further.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time Brad Meltzer Scott Brick HighBridge Company True Crime 10/22/2013 6 hours, 8 minutes 6.5/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘History Decoded’ was purchased from downpour.com for review.

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