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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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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.
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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But the treatment of the technical topics is very slim - no real analysis, no depth. But it is on the strength of the technical content that it does possess that causes me to give "two stars", instead of the "one" I was sorely tempted to give it.
The book seems to be a look inside Zubrin's mind: his prejudices, his politics, his prejudices, his notions of humor, his prejudices, and his notions of human relations, and his prejudices. Did I mention his prejudices?
The over-the-top polemical attacks on government (nothing but corrupt incompetent thieves), technical ideas he does not favor, and the traits of a healthy society, begin on page 1, before he has presented a single idea of his own, and continues without let-up throughout the book soaking up word-count in a fairly slim volume.
Overall it is a very poorly conceived, and even more poorly executed, attempt to combine fiction with technical content. But it is not really fiction - just a character spouting the personal prejudices of Zubrin.
Other reviewers have commented on this over the years, but writing this in mid 2018, after the #metoo movement, Zubrin's fondness for sexual objectification of women and advocating sexual abuse as humor is not just grating, it is intolerable, and labels him as quite the dinosaur for someone who fancies himself a man of the future. Likewise his advocacy of theft shows off a strikingly antisocial personality - actually violating the principles of the Libertarianism he so clearly identifies with (yes, you can be too selfish even for Libertarians).
Gosh, I almost just talked myself into cutting this back down to "one star" - but the technical content which I was seeking when acquiring it still moves me to give it "two".
The book can be divided into two parts, basic survival , and thriving. Under `basic survival `
How to get to Mars
How to choose a spacesuit
How to choose your first ground rover
How to choose your homestead.
Choosing the right technologies for your hab.
How to save money on radiation protection.
How to survive in the desert
How to make anything.
How to grow food that is actually edible.
This is basic Robinson Crusoe stuff.
Further up the Maslow Pyramid we have how to Thrive on Mars. This includes
How to get a Job that pays well doesn't kill you.
How to fly on Mars.
How to invest your savings.
How to make discoveries that will make you famous.
How to be a social success on Mars
How to avoid bureaucratic prosecution.
All of these involve avoiding the well worn paths set out by the Terrestrial Nanny state, the sisterhood or the two working in tandem.
Zubrin sets these out in entertaining fashion,.
Other than the Martian Authority, which is a branch of the terrestrial Nanny state, and the Sisterhoods, which seems to be an interplanetary teamsters union, there are no characters. Without characters, there is no plot, but this book would be a good start for a budding Heinlein, or a aspiring Martian settler.
In any case, it's a fun read. There's lots of interesting technology in the book, which I can forget at will, and there are a lot of hilarious zingers directed against the bureaucracy, Martian or Terran. There are also very funny parts about the NASA-supported idiots who went to live on the moon -- the "Loonies." (Would that be the Newt Gingrich crowd?)
This would probably make excellent bed-time reading. Put it next to your bed and read a little bit before drifting off to sleep....
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The potatoes aren't too bad, either.