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 Gold Mine Of Technotyrannical Neoarchy. Wow. Where to begin. I suppose I should specify what I mean by “Gold mine”: It is my personal designation for the worst books possible, the ones where you shift through tons of detritus to find even the smallest speck of anything remotely redeemable. Thus, while some might thing that describing a thing as a “gold mine” is a way of denoting massive wealth, for me it is exactly the opposite – something to only be even considered by those with particularly high levels of pain tolerance and masochistic tendencies.
Here, “celebrated futurist” (according to the book’s description) Khanna basically does all he can to trash anything remotely Western (and particularly American) while seeking a society that is technologically tyrannical and ruled by the young. (Thus, “technotyrannical neoarchy”.) His hubris in claiming that technology and skills are all that matters – and not pesky things like basic human rights and physical geographies – is utterly mind blowing. And his lack of documentation – barely 10% of this advanced reader copy edition I read was bibliography – is truly astounding for such major claims. Perhaps he thinks he gets away with this by claiming to be a “futurist”? Your projections are only as good as your source material, bub, and I expect to see it if you want to make such utterly fantastical claims as claiming that Wakanda is a possibly real society (specifically in saying that Black Panther is a “futuristic” film without ever even alluding to the term “science fiction”, as in “Black Panther is a futuristic science fiction film”) or that iFunny is a major Gen Z social media platform. Also, proclaiming the mobile home to be the “ultimate symbol of the new American mobility” is so utterly laughable in and of itself that this book should not be classified in any genre but humor.
If you’re reading this review and want actual looks at how migration works and the various issues world powers will be looking at over the coming decades, you’re *MUCH* better off with Sonia Shah’s The Next Great Migration or Tim Marshall’s The Power Of Geography and Prisoners of Geography – yes, even with Marshall’s own shortsightedness on some issues.
This book is thus not recommended at all, unless you happen to have high tolerances for pain and are particularly masochistic. Which is a major shame, since the title and subtitle were so promising.
Wildly … Imaginative… Reasoning, Close Yet Still Incorrect Conclusion. Most any math teacher (even former ones like myself) have stories of situations where when told to “show their work”, a student somehow has so-incorrect-as-to-nearly-be-incomprehensible reasoning, but somehow still manages to wind up at an answer that is close but still not quite correct. Maybe a decimal point in the wrong position, but the right actual digits in the right sequence, for example. Another example relevant here would be a space mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa that somehow launches when Jupiter is at its furthest point from Earth and launches away from Jupiter (or any reasonable path to the planet) to boot… and yet still manages to wind up on Callisto – another of the Galilean Moons of Jupiter with similar properties, though not the originally intended target and not as rich in desired attributes for the science aboard the mission.
This is effectively what Smaje has done here. More conservative readers may not make it even halfway into the first chapter, which is little more than a *very* thinly veiled anti-capitalist diatribe. Even more liberal/ progressive readers will have some tough pills to swallow with Smaje’s ardent defense of at least some forms of private property as the chief means of achieving his goals. And at the end, Smaje does in fact manage to do at least some version of what he sets out to do – make some level of a case for A Small Farm Future. The case Smaje makes here is indeed intriguing, despite being so deeply flawed, and absolutely worthy of further examination and discussion. It seems that he is simply too blinded by his own political and philosophical backgrounds to truly make the case as it arguably should have been made. Recommended.