Carl Sagan Day

CarlSaganDay

Carl Sagan should be remembered for a number of reasons, but most importantly for how he made average, non-scientist citizens care deeply for the sciences of astronomy and physics. The television series based on his book, Cosmos, was ground-breaking and is still important today.

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Since Carl Sagan was born on November 9th, 1934, the date has unofficially become Carl Sagan Day. To celebrate, here are five books written by Carl Sagan you should pick up, as well as five other fantastic books about space and physics.

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Cosmos

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It would be wrong not to start with his classic book, Cosmos. Published in 1980, it is one of the best-selling science books ever written. The book covers the entire history of the universe as we know it, and Sagan is able to explain everything in such as a way that it is easily understandable to scientists and non-scientists alike. The audiobook is also wonderful, as it’s narrated by LeVar Burton, Seth MacFarlane, Ann Druyan, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Pale Blue Dot

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Pale Blue Dot is a fascinating look at what Sagan thought might be the future of humanity in space, both in terms of exploration and of humans on other worlds.

Contact

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I feel like not enough people are aware of the fact that Carl Sagan wrote the novel Contact, the book that the Jodie Foster film was based on. The story is about a radio signal from another world containing information on how to build a machine that will take a human to that world.

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

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This was the final book published during Sagan’s life. It’s a collection of essays on everything from our relationship to the universe to the state of science to his own struggle with a fatal disease.

A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race

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Taking a break from writing about the universe, Sagan partnered with Richard Turco to write this book about what would happen here on earth during a nuclear winter. Although it was published in 1990, it’s still an important book today with the international politics of the world becoming increasingly strained.

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There are so many other great space books out there, and I wanted to share five of my favorites.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

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I’m fairly certain everyone has heard of this famous book. Another of the best-selling science books ever, Hawking’s book covers the history and origin of the universe as well as physics and the possibility of time travel.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

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I followed Chris Hadfield on Twitter and YouTube while he was aboard the International Space Station. In case you recognize the name but can’t quite remember why, he’s the astronaut who filmed himself singing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space. This book was a fantastically interesting look at the life of an astronaut, and I enjoyed every moment of reading it.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

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It takes a lot of work to put astronauts in space, and Margot Lee Shetterly’s book takes a look at the African American women who helped make that happen. The film, Hidden Figures, is based on this book.

Welcome to the Universe by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michael A Strauss, and J. Richard Gott III

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This huge book is practically a textbook, as it contains a plethora of information and diagrams on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about space. I purchased this book last year, and I’m still slowly making my way through it. It’s fascinating.

Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon by Buzz Aldrin

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Buzz Aldrin was the second person to walk on the moon, and this memoir is his account of that experience and the trip home, as well as what it was like after history had been made.


Have you read any of these books, or do you have a favorite space book that was left out? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Battlestar Suburbia by Chris McCrudden – A Review

“‘You know,’ added Alma, ‘the older I get, the more I think it’s not war or politics or all that stuff that makes history what it is. From what I can see, it’s all about the house prices.'”

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The Book

Battlestar Suburbia by Chris McCrudden
Published by Farrago
Release Date: September 20, 2018
Goodreads
Author Links: Twitter
I received a free digital ARC of this novel through NetGalley

Synopsis

Imagine a world in which robots and machines have decided that they are superior to the humans that created them and have taken over the world. That’s the setting of Chris McCrudden’s Battlestar Suburbia.

Humans have been reduced to custodians, and live on small satellites in orbit around Earth, called The Dolestars. They exist to service their machine overlords, and that’s about it.

In this world, the internet has been completely banned, and anyone that uses it will be persecuted, whether machine or human.

“Of course, officially no one had accessed the Internet for millennia. The ‘Schism’ between the machines who lived as software and hardware dated back to the first few foggy decades after artificial intelligence kicked humanity out of power. There had been a war. A brutal one, with countless machines dead on either side just from defending their edits on the war’s Wikipedia page. It had been the first, and thankfully the last, incident where robots fought one another. In the end they agreed on two things: that they should try living apart, and if anyone were to blame it was the humans.”

The story follows two humans, Darren and Kelly, as well as a sentient breadmaker named Pamasonic Teffal, aka Pam.

Darren and Kelly are on the run after accidentally damaging a floating spy streetlamp. Pam has been asked to track the humans down by a smartphone named Sonny Erikzon.

Kelly leads Darren to her mother’s underground hair salon, Kurl Up and Dye, where he is introduced to the last four cyborgs in existence. Together, they fight against the machines as they reject their robot rulers. The tale is an exciting adventure through the Dolestar Discovery and the robot surface of the earth, where the skyscrapers reach high into the atmosphere and the oceans have been filled with concrete.

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Photo by Rock’n Roll Monkey on Unsplash

Review

Battlestar Suburbia reminds me a lot of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyIt’s funny, exciting, and very ridiculous. I had never heard of Chris McCrudden before, but the cover caught my eye, and after reading the synopsis, I had a strong feeling I would love this book.

I loved the premise of both software and hardware deciding they no longer wanted to be ruled by humans and then gaining control of the planet. There are so many scenes of what the internet has become that made me laugh:

“On the Internet, however, World of Warcraft avatars merged with Reddit trolls to spawn a line of programmes so fanatical about defending the purity of their messageboards that they made a terrorist cell look like a basketful of sleeping kittens.”

The machine brothels were also pretty hilarious. Machines pay humans to “service” them, and role-play that humans are still able to use the machines as what they were originally meant to be.

There’s also a quip at our current administration and racism:

“Sonny’s broadcast was a masterful piece of propaganda, in that it gave already paranoid machines the excuse to treat their prejudices like they were facts. ‘Now, don’t get me wrong,’ rang the conversation in billions of homes, offices and public charging points, ‘I like humans. The lady who cleans our house is a sweetheart. But these people are different. And he’s right. We have to do something.” 

I enjoyed the book very much as an adventure story. It’s fast-paced, and the characters travel through both the physical world and the world of code. It’s interesting to have characters divide themselves and work among memes and firewalls.

There was one aspect of this book that prevented me from giving it five stars, and that’s simply that I could not picture the machine characters, at all. Are these sentient breadmakers and smartphones just floating? Do they have human-style arms and legs? I have no idea. Most of the book, I pictured some variation on this:

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Or this:

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Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

There are scenes where Pam has an LED nail job, so I’m guessing they at least have arms attached? I wish the author had spent more time describing the machine characters in order to give the readers something easier to imagine.

At the end of the book, there’s a brief advertisement for the second book in this series, which made me really happy. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Verdict

4 out of 5 stars. It was immensely enjoyable to read, and I appreciate any book that makes me laugh out loud.