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How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet Paperback – December 2, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
But this is not his best book about Mars. The format is fun and starts funny. But the humor turns caustic and repetitive. In the afterword, the author mentions some personal struggles that may have informed the bitterness in some of the book. I thought this was a shame because the underlying optimism, that civilization can branch out onto other planets, is so deep.
That said, this book is frequently fun and a quick read. Particularly beautifully rendered were the discussions of chemical processes that could be employed to keep people alive and productive on the surface of an otherwise dead planet. If you're interested in this book you might consider his others: "Entering Space" and "The Case for Mars".
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved the book, very funny. I need to get another copy to share with my students.Published 10 days ago by Amazon Customer
What a wonderful way to put the future possible habitation of mars.Published 19 days ago by Dewey Neild
This book shows the potential of human colonization of Mars and contains much humor and social commentary by an expert who urges Martian development. It was a great easy read.Published 6 months ago by KnightT
The usual Zubrin let's-get-to-Mars-dammit stuff, presented with a most peculiarly humorous style (as intended, but will be received by most as actually humorless). Read morePublished 6 months ago by Wikileaker
Tongue-in-cheek book raising all the issues involved in settling on Mars. Informative.Published 23 months ago by Sandra M. Van Heest
A pleasant fantasy about what life might be like for future Mars colonists. Very biased against government and certainly full of speculation. Read morePublished on May 29, 2014 by Great Pyr