A fine overview of the past and future of human space exploration.

SPACE 2069

AFTER APOLLO: BACK TO THE MOON, TO MARS...AND BEYOND

Expert speculation on the next 50 years of space travel.

Former BBC science correspondent Whitehouse has done his homework, so technically savvy readers will find little to quarrel with, and there is no chance that his predictions will be worse than those following the Apollo missions. During the exhilaration of the 1969 moon landings, most observers believed that the possibilities for space travel were endless. Older space buffs will remember when, in 1972, Richard Nixon cancelled further Apollo flights and junked the rockets and capsules. No human has been back to the moon since, but the ice is breaking. NASA’s scheduled return to the moon in 2028 seems guaranteed because Congress voted to fund the mission. Donald Trump’s 2019 announcement that he wants the landing in 2024 thrilled space buffs, including the author. However, that will require more money, which neither the president nor Congress seems interested in providing. Whitehouse delivers a skillful history of space exploration, paying special attention to the moon and emphasizing problems solved during Apollo and those that still require solutions in order to establish a permanent base. By 2069, he predicts that an international moon base will be up and running. In his scenario, there will also be a separate Chinese base. The author reminds readers that the U.S. banned China from participating in the space station and forbade NASA researchers from collaborating with that nation’s space scientists. China has an energetic space program, and Whitehouse does not doubt that the Chinese plan to avenge that insult. A realist, Whitehouse emphasizes that, without a major breakthrough in rocket technology, travel to Mars will test the limits of human endurance and willingness to bear the expense. His forecast for 2069 is a struggling 18-man international base on Mars. China will have its own.

A fine overview of the past and future of human space exploration.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78578-646-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Icon Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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