I’ll do a more thorough review of it when I get home again to reliable internet service, but I read Bob Zubrin’s new book How to Live On Mars yesterday.
It was funny, and a clever take on the subject, but there was a lot I found myself disagreeing with. In particular the sanction given to graft and corruption as though an integral and natural part of a free-market economy – that is, treating it not like a economic and political cancer which decent folk will refrain from if not actually fight against, nor like an unsavory necessity to be minimized where unavoidable, but as the very spice and zest of business itself. I recognize that it’s probably just overcooked irony, but after seeing the gag repeated so many times and in so many contexts, one begins to wonder. Ayn Rand it ain’t.
He does get in a couple of good digs at O’Neillians and warm-mongers, which is amusing, along with NASA (natch), and bureaucracies in general.
What surprised me (and probably shouldn’t have) is that he gets several things wrong with the technology, or else overlooks obvious solutions to shortcomings his narrator describes. In most cases where I noticed this, though, Zubrin clearly favored some alternative, and was simply presenting a straw-man argument against the others (e.g. his biased treatment of mechanical counterpressure suits throughout). Taking license with the technology for comic effect is okay in pure fiction, but in a book stocked in the non-fiction section and written by someone widely regarded as an authority on the technology of Mars exploration and settlement, it risks interfering with the real thing by poisoning the well against those ideas unfairly lampooned or creatively misrepresented by the author. How many budding young space settlers, having read this book, will now carry Bob Zubrin’s jokes and opinions-presented-as-facts in their heads as unexamined received wisdom?