Categories
1990s Recommended books Science Fiction

Encounter with Tiber by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes

Encounter with Tiber

Five words from the blurb: Earth, species, starfaring, space, future

I hadn’t heard of this book until I read about it in Moondust a few weeks ago. Intrigued by the idea of an astronaut writing a scientifically accurate sci-fi novel, I ordered a copy from my library. I’m pleased that I did because this is one of the best pieces of science fiction I’ve ever read.

Encounter with Tiber is a fantastic story that travels through time and space. I was gripped throughout the 500+ pages; thrown from moral dilemmas to heart stopping scenes of disaster. It predicts how human space travel will increase over the next few decades, explaining how technology will evolve to enable us to travel increasingly large distances. It also shows the problems faced when alien life is detected, giving thought-provoking insights into our society.

The wonderful thing about this book is the way everything is based on scientific fact.  The plot is firmly rooted to the first moon landings and the science behind everything is clearly explained. Some people may find that it gets a bit technical in places, but I loved the detail and enjoyed Aldrin’s predictions for the future.

“We’re going to the Moon, but only to go treasure hunting, and once we’re there it probably won’t be long before we’re taking soil that hasn’t been disturbed for four billion years, bulldozing it up in carloads, and pumping it through helium extractors. I wonder when they’ll open the first casino up there and the first Swfplay online casino. Probably within my lifetime.”

Buzz Alrdrin also used his experiences in space to give realistic descriptions of the thoughts, feelings and fears of those leaving our planet. This added a unique spark to the story and is the main reason this book should be considered a modern classic.

There are several things I should probably criticise (for example, the writing wasn’t perfect and the characters all had the same voice) but these problems didn’t seem to matter – I was far too engaged in the story. The only real issue is that this book was published in 1996 and so many of the events in the 1990-2010 section had already happened/not happened. Had I read this book on publication it would have had a far greater impact.

If you think you don’t like science fiction you should give this a try – it effortlessly blends historical events with predictions for the future and the scary thing is just how possible it all seems.

Highly recommended.

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Categories
2000 - 2007 Non Fiction Uncategorized

Moondust by Andrew Smith

Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth

Five words from the blurb: moon, journey, men, future, lives

Only twelve men have walked on the moon. Andrew Smith was intrigued by their rare experience and wondered how those few days in space affected their lives. He tracked down the nine moon walkers who were still alive (sadly Neil Armstrong died last year, leaving just eight) and attended space conferences in order to understand the unique place these people have in our hearts.

The book detailed the political and historical events that enabled the space program to occur, something I found particularly useful as I wasn’t alive at the time. It also gave me a new appreciation of how difficult the moon missions had been. I didn’t realise how frequently they came close to disaster and the knowledge that the entire command centre used the same memory as a couple of our modern mobile phones was a scary reminder of how much technology has advanced since then.

Unfortunately the book didn’t explain what daily life was like in space, giving only the briefest details of their time up there; instead the book focused on the way looking back at Earth changed their perspective on life.

….”with the right computer program, it would be possible to know precisely where everything else in the Universe will be ten, or a hundred, or a hundred thousand years from now. The one thing in the Universe that we can’t predict,” he concludes – and we know what’s coming, yet that doesn’t diminish the thought – “the one thing that we don’t know where it’s going to be even ten years from now, is us. We may be small, but we’ve been given the most extraordinary gift in the Universe.”

Most of the astronauts found being in space a profound, life changing experience and it was interesting to see how it had impacted each of their lives in a different way. Coping with their strange celebrity status was another issue they had to learn to master and I felt deep sympathy for the way some of the astronauts were pestered continually. 

My only complaint was the lack of photographs in this book – a small section containing a few black and white images would have been a big bonus. 

Overall this was a thought provoking piece of non fiction and I have a new-found appreciation for the men who risked their lives in order to step foot on the moon. 

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