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The Holy Land By Robert Zubrin

Jacket: Paperback
Pages: 299 pages
Publisher: Polaris Books; (2003)
Genre: Science Fiction
ISBN: 0974144304

Comments about the author: Zubrin is an aerospace engineer and author best known for his advocacy of manned Mars exploration. During the 1970's and 1980's
Visit the author's website at Polaris Books


Review: In one real world, a country’s President, full of bravado, arrives via fighter jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier. He presents the face of a plainspoken man – a Christian man – a man with a penchant for the transmogrification of his native language. He is here on this occasion to proclaim an end to major hostilities in the country’s latest war. At one point during his address to the ship’s compliment (and to the camera’s beaming his speech around the globe), he looks up to the ship’s observation deck and holds up both arms to the roar of hundreds of sailors who had crowded the area. Hanging from the ship’s superstructure behind the President is a sign stating boldly for the world to read: “Mission Accomplished.” These scenes are masterfully choreographed to drive home a message of strength and success. Six months and too many deaths, maimings, and amputations later this man disavows any connection with the ship’s war message.

In another, not so real world, a President learns that a section of his country has been invaded and settled by an outside force - Minervan refugees from oppression in the central galaxy who claim Kennewick, Washington as their ancient homeland. Upon learning these invaders worship a different god, the President turns to his Secretary of Defense telling him to “Mobilize the armed forces, I want those pagans exterminated by Sunday.” Forty-thousand deaths later, the President is warned that the invader’s overwhelming military superiority is decimating his military – it is time to look toward settling this war. The President exclaims indignantly that “ . . . total victory is practically within our grasp, and you want to stop fighting?”

Science Fiction, when done well, can be an amazing tool by which the writer can share his or her view of the world. All of our contradictions, absurdities, and outright foolishness can be reflected back at us in a distorted mirror of parody and just plain fun. Within this genre, the whole spectrum of substantial societal issues can, and often are, discussed. Perhaps because of my age, Star Trek and Isaac Asimov are the most salient sci-fi icons in my mind – these sparks set an entire generation’s imagination free. Into this fertile field of giants steps Robert Zubrin, well known aerospace engineer and President of the International Mars Society.

Zubrin’s most recent offering is titled The Holy Land. In the author’s words, “this is a satire on the Middle East crisis and the War on Terrorism. Throughout the work, Zubrin pokes fun at and even mocks many of our deeply held folkways and mores placing them squarely under the spotlight for all to examine. What ends up happening is that the astute reader is given the opportunity to read at least three good books bundled in one.

First, there was a good sci-fi tale that pits protagonist against antagonist in the midst of some rather murky, multi layered, social conflict. I enjoyed reading that book because the humorous tone and measured pace were a joy to partake of at the end of a long day after the family had gone to bed. Then there was the story that Zubrin told me he meant to write. This story creates a set of circumstances allowing the author to parody the Middle East conflict in madcap style with different factions playing the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Anglo-Americans, the Saudis, the Europeans, the UN, and so forth The milieu of violence and mistrust that has surrounded that unending conflict for so many years is explosive and can not help but lend itself to a satirical eye. The third story is one formed in my own mind as I read through Zubrin’s words. It is always the case with literature that the author’s intent is transubstantiated from the thing it was meant to be to the thing the reader wants it to be. This is the case here too. While one can easily see the parallels Zubrin draws between the conflicted Americans and Minervans, it is also easy to disregard the parties in this conflict in favor of bigger issues. What role should government play in the everyday lives of people? Should the government exercise hegemony over the individual in its attempt to maintain continuing stability for the collective? How much information should the people be provided access to?

In The Holy Land, Robert Zubrin creates a time and place where governments and the people who control power, work in shady gray areas. People are kept alive on a steady diet of bread and circus while power brokers advance themselves on the backs of an unknowing populace. No matter what book you end up reading here, you will enjoy yourself. This book is well worth the read.

— Reviewed by: Timothy E. McMahon, M.S.
tim_mcmahon@northeastbookreviews.com

 
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