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The Holy Land ()

What George Orwell did for (or to?) the Russian Revolution in Animal Farm Robert Zubrin does to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict in this very clever satire. When the Western Galactic Empire relocates the unpopular race of Minervans to their original homeland in Kennewick, WA, the Americans take it poorly. The corrupt Christian fundamentalist administration in Washington, DC first tries to expel them using force, but when that fails they decide to make a play for galactic sympathy, so people are herded into "refugee" camps around the new Minervan land, to live in ostentatious misery. From these camps they launch suicidal terrorist assaults on the Minervans. Later, when the vital energy source helicity is discovered in America, the administration uses its wealth to set up training camps in far flung locales in order to have plausible deniability when it launches a spectacular 9-11-style attack on the Western Galactic Empire itself.

All of the elements of the conflict in our own Holy Lands are present here and there's great pleasure to be had in seeing how Mr. Zubrin draws the parallels. Likewise, the absurdity of these tactics is even clearer in a fictional setting than it is in real life. The Americans have no chance against the Minervans, who are decent folk and just want to live peacefully in the land that is rightfully theirs. The American political leaders cynically manipulate their own people and the galactic press and they engage in truly criminal behavior. But, something seemingly unintended does happen--even with the deck so stacked--this reader, at least, found his sympathies ultimately did lie with the Americans as against the Minervans. Sure, one would wish the leadership less corrupt and their means less vile, but tribalism/nativism is a powerful force and, in the end, it seems only natural to prefer Christian Americans who are rather similar to us, even if flawed, to the quite different Minervans. And, realistically, imagine that the Native Americans, who have a not un-Minervan claim to American soil, set up a state for themselves--how do you think we'd all react, no matter the abstract justice of their case?

As I say, I'd assume this reaction is not what Mr. Zubrin intended, but in a way it makes the book even more powerful. Once you recognize that you can abhor your own leaders methods but still find their cause somewhat compelling, you gain a genuine insight into the insanity that has infected the Palestinians. This insight can in no way justify terrorism but does suggest why more moderate and ordinary people are reluctant to disavow the extremists in their midst.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Robert Zubrin (3 books reviewed)
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Robert Zubrin Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Robert Zubrin
-PODCAST: Podcast #242: Life on Mars: Iona Italia talks to Robert Zubrin, who argues that Mars offers an extraordinary wealth of social and intellectual opportunities that would enrich humanity. And we can get there soon. (Quillette, 10 Jul 2024)
    -PODCAST: EPISODE # 422 Robert Zubrin — How What We Can Create on the Red Planet: Informs Us on How Best to Live on the Blue Planet (Skeptic, 4/12/24)
    -ESSAY: THE CASE FOR NUCLEAR POWER (Robert Zubrin, 8/15/23, Skeptic)
    -ESSAY: How to Search for Life on Mars: First, stop refusing to look. (Robert Zubrin, Steven Benner, Jan Špa?ek, New Atlantis)
    -ESSAY: How We Can Get Clean Energy—Fuel and Human Progress (Robert Zubrin, 14 Apr 2022, Quillette)
    -ESSAY: How We Can Get Clean Energy—Is Nuclear Power Safe? (Robert Zubrin, 29 Apr 2022, Quillette)
    -ESSAY: Drain Putin’s Brains (ROBERT ZUBRIN, February 24, 2022, National Review)
    -ESSAY: Close the Sky (Robert Zubrin. March 2, 2022, Kyiv Post)
    -ESSAY: Fusion Power is Coming Robert Zubrin, 21 Feb 2022 , Quillette)
    -ESSAY: The Fusion Revolution (ROBERT ZUBRIN, August 28, 2021, nATIONAL rEVIEW)
-REVIEW: Malthusian Theory Has Always Been False: A review of Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet by Marian Tupy and Gale Pooley (Robert Zubrin, 8 Sep 2022, Quillette)
-Mars Direct: Headquarters for the Mars Direct Manned Mars Mission
    -Mars Society
    -ESSAY:The Fusion Revolution (ROBERT ZUBRIN, 8/28/21, National Review)
    -ESSAY: The Significance of the Martian Frontier (Robert Zubrin)
    -ESSAY: The Economic Viability of Mars Colonization (Robert Zubrin)
    -Robert Zubrin (Wikipedia)
    -Transportation Testimony of Dr. Robert Zubrin at Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Hearings: "Future of NASA". (October 29, 2003, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation)
    -PROFILE: Mars or Bust (Eric Benson and Justin Nobel, January 2010, Guernica)
    -INTERVIEW: with Robert Zubrin (Ann Online)
    -INTERVIEW: Q & A With Robert Zubrin, President, International Mars Society (, 28 February 2000)
    -INTERVIEW: The Case for Mars Revisited: Speaking of the Future with Robert Zubrin (The Speculist, August 27, 2003)
    -INTERVIEW: with Robert Zubrin (Ted Chamberlain, September/October 2000, National Geographic Adventure)
    -PROFILE: Defender of the dream of colonizing Mars (CAROL SMITH, August 21, 2003, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)
    -ESSAY: On to Mars!: While NASA fiddles with robots, a grass-roots movement burns to put human beings on the Red Planet -- soon. (REBECCA BRYANT, January 1999, Salon)
    -ESSAY: A Critique of Robert Zubrin’s Martian Calendar (Thomas Gangale and Marilyn Dudley-Rowley)
    -ESSAY: The Case for Colonizing Mars (Robert Zubrin, July/August 1996, Ad Astra)
    -INTERVIEW: A Conversation With Robert Zubrin: Popular Science talks to the author of How to Live on Mars about the prospects for a move to the red planet (Laurie J. Schmidt, 12.02.2008, Popular Science)
    -INTERVIEW: Zubrin on Terraforming Mars (Fraser Cain, 7/12/04, Universe Today)
Why did you write How to Live on Mars and why now?

I wrote it to excite a new and younger generation. I grew up in the Apollo era, and there needs to be literature to capture the imagination of the new younger generation. In the book there's a vision of a future civilization living and growing on Mars -- it's about creating a new branch of human civilization. As I see it, that new branch will have many of the positive and some of the negative aspects of America when it was young -- a place where the rules haven't been written yet. I think that when humans get around to exploring and building cities and towns on Mars, it will be viewed as one of the great times of humanity, a time when people set foot on another world and had the freedom to make their own world.

There are many different approaches you could have taken to writing a book about living on Mars. You chose to take a lighthearted, humorous approach -- can you tell me why?

It was a new way to reach an additional audience. I told it straight in The Case for Mars, then I told it in the form of an adventure story in First Landing. So this time I decided to try science humor.

    -INTERIEW: Q&A: Robert Zubrin, Mars Pathfinder (National Geographic Adventure)
    -PROFILE: Mars Explorers Call for Opening the 'New World' (Leonard David, 24 August 2001,
   -ARTICLE: Sign Up for a Mission to 'Mars' (Robert Lemos, 09.08.06 , Wired)
    -ARCHIVES: Contributing Editor, Robert Zubrin (The New Atlantis)
    -REVIEW: of How to Live on Mars by Robert Zubrin (Brian L. Enke, Mars Society)
I'm not even sure if one should call How To Live On Mars a "novel," a "satire," or a "reference manual." To be safe, I'll continue to call it simply a "book." No doubt, this small dose of common sense and simplicity would appeal to Zubrin's protagonist, a desert-smart 22nd century Mars settler who happens to also be named Robert Zubrin.

In How To Live On Mars, the future Robert Zubrin tells you, a new Martian settler lured to the frontier by promises of Great Wealth and Fame, everything you need to know to actually achieve Great Wealth and Fame. His step-by-step recipe includes everything from how to reach Mars (in case you were smart and bought the guidebook back on Earth before purchasing your cycler ticket), what spacesuit to buy, where to live, how to earn your Great Wealth and Fame, how to enjoy your Great Wealth and Fame, and most importantly, how to avoid distractions and mistakes along road to Great Wealth and Fame.

Simply put, if you're interested in space exploration, How To Live On Mars should be on your "must-read" list. The science behind the fictional backstory is rock-solid, as one would expect from the author of The Case For Mars and Entering Space. Humorous prose delights the reader throughout most of the book, setting a lively pace that slows a step or two in the more technical sections (usually accompanied by adequate warnings). But don't be fooled by the rolling-on-the-floor-laughing parts...this book contains nearly as much useful technical detail as The Case For Mars.

    -REVIEW: A New Land of Opportunity: One way to recapture the frontier spirit and relearn the value of hard work, self-reliance and risk-taking: a review of How to Live on Mars (GLENN HARLAN REYNOLDS, Wall Street Journal)
If "How to Live on Mars" is in the vein of 19th- century guides to the New World, it is also in the tradition of futuristic fiction -- using a hypothetical future society as a way of pointing up trends and problems in our own. There seems little question that Mr. Zubrin views the values of a frontier as superior to those of a closed civilization. He begins with a quotation from the historian Frederick Jackson Turner: "To the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness of strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things." Mr. Zubrin has written elsewhere that he believes the outlet and example of a frontier is necessary for the long-term survival of freedom for those who remain behind.

Such frontier values are perhaps unfashionable in the age of Hope and Change, but they are widely held among Americans nonetheless. If "How to Live on Mars" inspires a greater enthusiasm for opening frontiers in space, it will have served a good purpose. But it will have done as much if it merely succeeds in reminding people of the importance of things like enterprise, hard work and self-reliance.

    -REVIEW: of How to Live on Mars (Taylor Dinerman, The Space Review)
    -REVIEW: of Benedict Arnold: A Drama of the American Revolution in Five Acts by Robert Zubrin (Thomas Lindaman, Common Conservative)
    -REVIEW: of The Holy Land by Robert Zubrin (Aaron Hughes, Fantastic Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of The Holy Land (Wayne Lutz, The Tocquevillean)
    -REVIEW: of The Holy Land (Rochelle Caviness , The Jewish Eye)
    -REVIEW: of The Holy Land (Timothy E. McMahon, NorthEast Book Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of The Holy Land (Heather Preston, American Mensa Ltd. Bulletin)
    -REVIEW: of Holy Land (Beth Goodtree, Israel Insider)
    -REVIEW: of First Landing by Robert Zubrin (Wil Owen, Rambles)
    -REVIEW: of The Adventures of Space Pioneers in the High Arctic by Robert Zubrin (Adam Keiper, Weekly Standard)

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