An Army Fights On Its Stomach. This was a fascinating look at what it would actually take to have a survivable human colony on Mars (or really on any other planetary body not Earth), starting from the same place Generals have known for Millenia: Ok, we got our people there. How do they stay there? First, they need food. From there, the discussion – and the book *is* written as an accessible third person discussion between its coauthors and the reader – centers on how to actually grow food on Mars for a population larger than one. (Sorry Mark Whatney and Andy Weir, but while your science may work for one person in a survival situation just trying to get off planet, it won’t work for a livable colony trying to ensure it doesn’t become the Mars version of Jamestown.) The science and bleeding edge/ near /future tech that Newman and Fraser discuss is utterly mind-boggling, but smaller scale experiments even in such places as The Land Pavilion in EPOCT at Walt Disney World (a personal favorite ride in the entire compound, specifically for the science it displays in action) show the promise of some of these exact techs. Overall a much more generally approachable discussion than other similar books from active literal rocket scientists (including Buzz Aldrin’s Mission to Mars, where he discusses his proposal for moving people and materiel between planets), this one really only has two flaws: First, it discusses COVID quite a bit, as it forced the interactions of the coauthors and their research along certain paths and even opened the general idea to begin with. I am on a one-man crusade against any book that discusses COVID for any reason, and an automatic one-star deduction is really my only tool there. The second star deduction is for the dearth of any bibliography. Yes, there were footnotes frequently, but even these seemingly barely amounted to 10% of the text – which is half to one third of a more typical bibliography in my experience, even with my extensive experience working with advance reader copies. Still, overall this is an utterly fascinating discussion and something that anyone who is serious about expanding humanity’s population beyond low Earth orbit seriously needs to consider. Very much recommended.
A Realist Looks To The Future. I’ve read several books in the last few years covering the general real-world end of the world scenarios and/ or projections for the next few decades, and this text is refreshing in just how grounded and real Zeihan’s approach is. There may in fact be squabbles about a particular point here or there, or even Zeihan’s entire general premise, as the only other review on Goodreads at the time I write this points out, but for me the analysis was close enough to be at least one plausible scenario among many that *could* play out – unlike most others I’ve read in this field. Add in the fact that this isn’t a dry academic look, but instead a somewhat humorous and even crass at times real, straightforward analysis… and you’ve got my attention. Note: If you’re a reader that absolutely WILL NOT tolerate f-bombs, even the occasional one… eh, you’re probably gonna wanna skip this one. 😉 Instead, this reads more like you’re sitting at the bar with a few drinks with an absolute expert in his field, and he is going over a very detailed look at what he thinks is coming over the next 10 – 30 years. As a text, it is thus quite remarkable. The *singular* weakness I found in the text that was star deduction worthy was a complete absence of a bibliography, and the frequent use of footnotes without actually noting even when they were happening was a touch irritating, but not additional star deduction worthy. Very much recommended.
Interesting Overview. Needs Bibliography. It is actually somewhat interesting to me that of five reviews on Goodreads prior to this one, one of the reviewers specifically notes a lack of footnotes as a *good* thing… and this very thing is actually pretty well the only thing I could find to *ding* this text on. But I’m fairly consistent in that – no matter what, I expect a fact-based (vs more memoir-based) nonfiction title to include and reference a decent sized bibliography.
That noted, the substance of this text was well-written, approachable, at times amusing, and full of facts from a wide range of eras that this reader had not previously known. Even in the chapter on the development of driverless cars – much more thoroughly documented in DRIVEN by Alex Davies – there were a few facts that even having read that book and being a professional software developer (and thus more generally aware of tech than some), I genuinely didn’t know before reading this book. Preceding chapters tracing the development of transportation during the 19th and early 20th centuries in particular were utterly fascinating, as was later coverage of the potential future for a car-less society. Remarkably well balanced, the text tends to steer clear – pun absolutely intended – of various relevant controversies (climate change, Peak Oil, Peak Car, autonomous vehicles, car-less society, etc) even while discussing said controversies’ impact on society and future developments. Truly a solid examination of its topic, and very much recommended.
Space. Nazis. In The Future! I didn’t think there was much new ground that The Modern Day Master of Science Fiction, Jeremy Robinson, had left to cover. I was wrong. He hadn’t covered space Nazis in the future yet, and that has now been corrected in truly awesome fashion. This one has everything you would expect from a tale of late 80s Special Forces soldiers being thrust 1,000 years into a future where the Nazis eventually came back, destroyed Earth… and are trying to take over the entire galaxy. Some Firefly, a good dose of WALL-E, and a few key callbacks to other previous Robinson books (easily explained in context, but then you’re going to want to go read those books too 🙂 ). And a pair of significant cameos at the end that could signal that Robinson is FINALLY about to give us another Avengers Level Event soon! All told, one of Robinson’s more fun books to date, which is saying quite a bit, and very much recommended.