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Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  218 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Aliens are big in America. Whether they’ve arrived via rocket, flying saucer, or plain old teleportation, they’ve been invading, infiltrating, or inspiring us for decades, and they’ve fascinated moviegoers and television watchers for more than fifty years. About half of us believe that aliens really exist, and millions are convinced they’ve visited Earth.

For twenty-five ye
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by National Geographic
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Jul 28, 2011 Gendou rated it it was ok
This book is full lame similes, alliteration, and HORRIBLE puns.
There's just NO EXCUSE for this cheesy style of writing!!!
What was Seth thinking?
Maybe he intends to keep the reader's attention, or something.
Instead, it reads like a low-budget, local car commercial.

I don't know why all SETI books all have to pander to the layest of layperson.
Ben Bova and Paul Davies both wrote really poor ones, too.

Though, Seth does a good job dismissing the case for Neutrino and Gravity Wave communication as bei
Sep 02, 2015 Ilya rated it did not like it
My favorite science fiction novel about aliens is The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. My second favorite science fiction novel about aliens is Roadside Picnic by Russian writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, which has been reissued in 2012 in an excellent new English translation. In the 1970s, aliens land in a few places on Earth, taking off a few days later and leaving behind artifacts and phenomena that apparently violate the laws of physics as Earth scientists know them, looking as strange t ...more
Gerald Lizee
Jan 30, 2014 Gerald Lizee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Gérald Lizée Comprehensive presentation of human ET search

Seth Shostak's book answered many questions I had about extraterrestrial intelligence and scientific endeavour to find it. The SETI organization became active only a few decades ago: its goal, detect intelligent signals emanating from distant planets surrounding one of the 100 billion stars of our galaxy, the Milky Way, or coming from one of the other 80 billion galaxies in the universe. Using radiotelescopes and optical telescopes, astro
Dimitri Paulyn
Feb 03, 2014 Dimitri Paulyn rated it liked it
I didn't get to learn what the extra-terrestrials really look like. All kidding aside - what were you expecting. The book has a lot of hypothesizing and conjecture, but then again, what can you expect reading about a subject that has - to all evidence - never been observed.

An entertaining read - good to see some de-bunking of 'government intervention'.

I was puzzled regarding why extra terrestrials might always choose to manifest themselves in a location in the United States, and why the United
This book acts mainly as an introduction to SETI, and it's probably going to be most useful for people who are looking for that and/or have misconceptions about what SETI actually is. I think the title lead me to expect a more in-depth and personal account of Shostak's daily life and experiences as a SETI researcher, so in that way it was disappointing. As far as the science in the book, I wasn't introduced to a lot of concepts that I wasn't already familiar with, but that's probably my "fault," ...more
Jul 04, 2009 Lise rated it liked it
Shelves: library, history
An overview of the SETI project, covering history, purpose, and projected future, written by the chair of the International Academy of Astronautics SETI Permanent Study Group.

I found the author's style a bit distracting. The book is peppered with colorful metaphors ranging from the very evocative "as adaptable as a little black dress" to so current they'll be dated tomorrow "observed as closely as Lindsay Lohan's social schedule". The book is so full of pop culture references that I think the au
Joshua Taylor
Jan 09, 2010 Joshua Taylor rated it really liked it
Considering that the SETI program has had no successes and only occasional 'near misses,' it might seem that there's not much material for a book. Shostak demonstrates in Confessions that this is markedly not the case, providing not brief but interesting snippets of history about the SETI program itself but also a wealth of information on the how and the why of the SETI program, with plenty of speculation on the nature and motives of alien life thrown in for a dash of spice.

I ended up disagreei
André Spiegel
That's just me: I found very little new information in this book, but that's because I have been interested in all things SETI for many years. I was particularly interested in one number that I have struggled to find a reference for: Up to what distance would we be able to detect a civilization with the same capabilities as our own, i.e. a civilization that broadcasts the same amount of inadvertent stray radiation into space as we do?

The answer is »a few dozen light years«, but the book does not
Jan 25, 2013 Mick rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is a strong introduction to the history and aims of the SETI project, the search for life on other worlds, and the field of radio astronomy, written by a man who's been there from the beginning. As the senior astronomer and public face of SETI, Seth Shostak is the ideal person to write a book about the search for life on other worlds. He tackles all the key issues and controveries, such as the Fermi paradox, the role of Moore's Law in driving SETI, and the question of whether extraterrestri ...more
Aug 05, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Shostak, a senior astronomer for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, chronicles the search for extraterrestrial life in this well-written, wide-ranging book covering the inner workings, physics and philosophy behind SETI.

What I loved best about this book was the clear, logical practical tone of the author's voice. I expected a book about SETI to be either unbelievable dry and political or overblown and ridiculous. Instead, this is a marvelously well-grounded, evidence-based s
Nov 14, 2012 Mizumi rated it really liked it
I hardly judge books by their covers, but I'm glad in this case, because I would have missed out hadn't I picked this up.
Shostak talks about his work for SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence throughout. The book begins with a general introduction about the developments in astronomy, to the eventual acknowledgement it's a good possibility other intelligence is out there somewhere. Then Shostak discusses techniques used by SETI to find signals of said intelligence, and even goes into
Al Macy
Jul 18, 2014 Al Macy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-book
Although Paul Davies' book, The Eerie Silence is a somewhat more realistic view of SETI, this one also gives a good review of the topic. The best part is that the author is really funny. Almost every page has a clever humorous way of expressing something, and I often laughed out loud.
Sep 25, 2014 Aj rated it really liked it
Cheesy puns aside, I thought this was an entertaining and informative book. I found I flew through the chapters, it's very easy to read and rekindled my fascination with space. You can feel the passion Seth has for what he does.
Apr 08, 2016 Kristina rated it really liked it
Really interesting. Seth Shostak works through the standard questions SETI gets asked regularly in his attempt to demonstrate why the search is important. All this is interspersed with anecdotes and asides that make it pleasurable to read.
Yashaswi Narasimha
Sep 03, 2014 Yashaswi Narasimha rated it it was ok
Decent read but lacking in focus and consistency of tone - pop culture references often share the same paragraph with words that would have been rejected by H.P. Lovecraft for being too archaic.
Dec 18, 2011 Rajesh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, own-a-copy
Most of the issues broached in this book wasn't very new to me. The reason for this is very easy to fathom: I'm a long time listener to the SETI institute podcast that Seth coshosts, "Big Picture Science" aka "Are we alone?". Nevertheless, I found this book very enjoyable. I like Seth's style and wit, but more importantly, the book is written in a engaging fashion about such interesting topics as the history and future of search for aliens in the context of modern astronomy and the current rapid ...more
May 23, 2014 Oné rated it it was amazing
Hi! My review of this book is at:
Ann Nicholas
Oct 29, 2013 Ann Nicholas rated it really liked it
Shostak's "confession" is that despite his years as a scientist and involvement with SETI, he doesn't think we're going to find ETI any time soon. 2049 appears to be the earliest date he's willing to suggest we could make contact. Even then, he says it will only happen when we can both detect a message being sent by intelligent beings and send one of our own for them to pick up.

The book is well-written and gets readers up to date on the history of SETI, but sadly, it didn't tell me what I wante
May 04, 2014 Jimagn rated it really liked it
This is a very enjoyable read. The author's use of simile and metaphor is very funny and dry. If you've ever wondered why SETI is still going strong, read this.
Sep 01, 2010 Cialan rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frances Whited
Oct 04, 2014 Frances Whited rated it really liked it
Excellent book about the development of radio astronomy.
Daniel Ginsburg
Oct 26, 2013 Daniel Ginsburg rated it liked it
The book wasn't as good as I was expecting it to be. It could have been a lot shorter - about 100 pages were spent explaining the history of alien hunting, then maybe another 50 on pseudo-science (i.e. people who think little green men come to visit them in the middle of the night). The humor wasn't that good either (unless you think humor is supposed to fit inside parentheses, like this). But yes, it was filled with some interesting facts, maybe (if you can make it through until the last 75 pag ...more
Meg Hannah
May 18, 2009 Meg Hannah rated it liked it
Definitely a "read, skim, skip" book. I know a fair amount about the topic already, so I'm only actually reading the most interesting (to me) bits. Interesting, informed speculation about what forms and compositions alien life would take.

The author's writing gets in the way sometimes. He definitely tries too hard with his adjectives and similes.

Just can't help being in awe of the number of galaxies, stars, and planets. Wow.
Jul 08, 2012 Louis rated it liked it
Recommends it for: SETI, Astronomy fans
If one wishes an overview of the SETI program I recommend this book. It stays focused on its subject. If one is expecting an overview of the Fermi Paradox as it relates to SETI or questioning the base assumptions of SETI, there are other books that do that better. If the subject interests you I would say this book should be part of a personal library on the subject, but it’s not a book that tackles all aspects of the subject.
Tom Schulte
I hear "meetings about meetings" and know there is an ineffectual prelude to and uncertain future. Such is with this alient-hunting literature. I love the subject, but there is really no "there" there: hoaxes, false alarms, and suppositions of what would happen if only... A good narrator and the inside story of the birth and life of SETI make this a good read.
Jun 02, 2012 Brianna rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone even marginally interested in science (or science fiction)
I know the title is tongue-in-cheek, but based on the number of cheesy National Enquirer-type cheap nonfiction books there are out there, it almost made me leave this book on the library shelves.

I'm glad I didn't. Read alot that I'd forgotten about since my formative teenage (aka astronomy obsessed) years, and it was just as fun as learning it the first time.
Apr 22, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it
Shostak is an entertaining author who writes passionately about one of the most interesting puzzles facing mankind. This is an excellent summary of the current search for extraterrestrial intelligence, from a mainstream science-y point of view, rather than an aliens-abducted-my-neighbor-and-built-the-pyramids point of view.
Lukas Dufka
Oct 12, 2015 Lukas Dufka rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Erudite, comprehensive and funny. A most accessible primer on the recent history and hopeful future of our search for mankind's gallactic brethren. Above all, a beautiful example of how scientific mind should approach and could possibly answer even our biggest questions.
Jul 27, 2009 Vanessa rated it liked it
I was glad that this informative look at the search for alien intelligence was not too dense or dry since this is such a fascinating subject. More pictures (especially those of the color variety) or diagrams would have really created more interest and sparked up this book.
Feb 21, 2015 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was fairly interesting but after a while it felt more like a defense of the entire concept of an organized search for intelligent aliens, like the author is explaining why he should keep his job. Some of that is okay but there was too much of it here.
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