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.
Zany Space Story. The best way to describe this book, really, is that if you like Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy – a perennial favorite among the geek set for decades now that has in many cases transcended into pop culture – … you’re probably going to like this one too. There are quite a bit of similarities, given the hilarious and offbeat humor and even the “guidebook” element of the story. (Though unlike the Adams epic, this one actually includes at least parts of the guide in the story.) As others have noted, the fact that this was spurred many years ago by a (now defunct) Mars colonization effort that had the same general premise is, quite frankly, even more amusing. If you’re looking to see what all the fuss over Hitchhiker is about but you’re not willing to commit to something of quite that length, try this one. At roughly 250 pages, it is a short-average length and thus a good primer for that type of humor and creativity. If you’re looking for a more serious/ Hard Science Fiction ala Andy Weir’s take on The Martian… this isn’t that. So strap in and get ready to blast off on one wild ride. Very much recommended.