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How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet Paperback – December 2, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—This guidebook for would-be Mars settlers is equal parts "Mars-humor" and science fiction (the narrator was born on Mars in 2071); a satire highly critical of NASA; and a Loompanics-flavored manifesto of rugged individualism. Fans of vintage Robert A. Heinlein, particularly The Rolling Stones (Del Rey, 1977), will feel right at home here as they enjoy descriptions of practical situations that might actually be encountered: air circulation technologies; choice of "habs"; pitfalls and scams that greenhorns should avoid. Enlivened by witty illustrations, the prose is both humorous and fact filled, with more technical and scientific information set aside in sections marked "Warning: High Science Content." Zubrin's presentation is clear and interesting but some might object that he puts no curbs on content like chemical recipes for explosives, and his Mars-based narrator's views are simplistic on complex Earth-based issues like global warming, bioengineering, and the value of government as a social contract. These topics could spark interesting classroom discussions. Valuable for teachers, this book is enjoyable and attractive for teens and will fascinate, provoke, and delight anyone interested in Mars and space settlement.—Christine C. Menefee, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In The Case For Mars (1997), Zubrin outlined a plan for visiting the red planet on a budget, offering plausible scientific scenarios for its colonization and eventual terraforming. Here he makes his case more whimsically by presenting in the form of a guidebook for the twenty-second-century pioneer on the way to already well-established, prefab Martian settlements. In practical, bite-sized chapters, he doles out advice on choosing a spacesuit (the elastic kind accentuates your buff physique, if you have one), describes Martian jobs that pay well (and don’t kill you), and even provides tips on delivering effective pickup lines (hint: what works in Earth’s saloons won’t work at film festivals in New Plymouth, Mars). Skillfully rendered illustrations of Martian colony life spice up instructions on how to invest your savings, avoid bureaucratic persecution, and achieve fame by making groundbreaking discoveries. Despite its deliberately droll tone, Zubrin’s primer grounds each chapter in legitimate science (with some leeway for delightfully extravagant speculation) and makes this futuristic peek at the Martian frontier an enjoyable learning experience. --Carl Hays
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (December 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307407187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307407184
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #687,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Once again, Zubrin delights and informs like no other. This concise, easy-reading, laugh-out-loud, little volume is packed with more solid scientific and engineering information about Mars, Mars exploration and settlement than even "The Case for Mars." Whereas the latter was informative and interesting, but fairly straight-laced, Zubrin here takes a decidedly more lighthearted approach, creating a fictional, early 22nd century guide to surviving and thriving on the new frontier.

As usual, Zubrin's strongest suit is his ability to turn his caustic wit against the foolish, timid, bureaucratic, cowardly, thoughtless paralysis which presently cripples the aerospace establishment, and indeed, Zubrin suggests, the entirety of terrestrial "civilization" (if what we have down here still merits the term.) Perhaps my favorite example is the following passage detailing water reclamation from the exhaust of a space suit's methanol/oxygen fuel-cell (used to provide electric power) in order to extend the endurance of Martians on EVA.

"The water you obtain will include a significant quantity of carbon dioxide in solution, which is why NASA has banned systems that plumb fuel-cell wastewater directly back to the suit canteen. However, despite the claimed medical problem, it is a fact that in the twentieth century, many people chose to drink carbonated water as a matter of preference."

I do not hold with those who regard Zubrin's political asides as an interruption of an otherwise interesting presentation of scientific or engineering information. Zubrin's ability to decisively skewer folly of all sorts, technical, medical, political, social, is the primary reason that he has always impressed me, and in my opinion, constitutes the single best feature of this particular book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Bob Zubrin really knows his stuff when it comes to the Red Planet. And here he gives us a somewhat tongue-in-cheek, projected look at the guidebook he would write for the wanna-be Mars immigrant of the late 21st century. That's cool. And it's fun and informative.

But that's the end of the good news. Here's the bad news.

1. This work is extremely short. It is barely more than novella-length. It is about half of the length of a "normal" best-selling novel. That's word count, not pages - the print edition must have pretty big type. And fully 5% of the "book" is a bullet list of the topics! The market value of a locked digital copy of a novella-length work is about $2, not $10. So this is a rip off in the basic sense of content-per-dollar.

2. The Kindle Edition is a trashed OCR scan that borders on unreadable and will drive you nuts. Starting halfway through the first chapter, a few random words or phrases in each sentence are in italics. I can't get my REVIEW to emulate THAT, so instead I'LL SHOW you by inserting some WORDS IN capitals TO emulate the problem. Don't YOU think this IS really irritating? IF it doesn'nt BOTHER YOU yet, then you haven't SEEN enough of IT and you'll just have TO take my WORD FOR it, it IS really annoying.

So how do I know it's OCR? Smoking gun: part of a caption reads "A/lost people look better in...". Classic and obvious OCR glitch: a flyspeck in the M caused it to mis-read "Most people.."; once it saw the first hump in the M as an A, it was lost in morphospace trying to assign some char values to the rest of the M! There are hundreds of other cases, in many of them it is quite difficult to work out what the actual text is supposed to be.

I have no idea why they did this stupid book trick.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book is overall fairly good, with plethora of of speculative information about future life on mars. However, it has three major issues:

The first is that (for the kindle at least) it has not been properly formatted. Some words are (apparently at random) spaced improperly so that they show up on the kindle with gaps in the middle of them: like th is. It's not frequent enough to prevent easy reading, but it happens enough to be noticeably irritating.

The second is that the author tends to have a rather pessimistic (and in my mind, slightly unrealistic) view of future technology. Aside from the cynicism about scam artists and criminals creating hard life on the frontier of a new planet, which is fine, the author also tends to ignore probable technological advances: to the point that I initially assumed this book was published in the late 80's instead of last year. A couple of early examples are his claim that MIR had to be abandoned because the inside was contaminated with intolerable amounts of disgusting "green gunk" organic residue, when actually it was de-orbited due to lack of funding and plans for MIR2 (which eventually was incorporated into the ISS), or the assumption that by the year 2100+ we won't be able to create socks with heating elements woven into them that won't short out and electrocute the user when he or she sweats.

The final con for this book is the author's attitude towards NASA, which is so far beyond acerbic that it gets tiresome and frankly makes him come of as something of a complete jerk. I get that NASA as an organization is somewhat bureaucratic, inefficient, and makes mistakes. But in this book, it's portrayed as being laughably backwards, corrupt, and criminally negligent. Constantly.
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