“Gentlemen, at this very moment, there are Al Qaeda forces that are training to kill you and your Marines. They train high up in the oxygen-depleted mountains of Afghanistan, and if you think our training is hard, then try hauling a PKM (Soviet-style, medium machine gun) up to 12,000 feet, in bare feet over rocky terrain – oh, and at night without NVG’s.”
I can’t tell you how many times I heard that comment during my four years in the Marine Corps – which included a seven month hunting trip to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province – but it was a lot. And it was motivating. Little did I know however, was that this quote was actually legitimate; it’s not that I thought it wasn’t true, but you know how things can be exaggerated. I uncovered the truth just a few short weeks ago as I finished up maybe the most thrilling spy story I have ever read: Inside the Jihad – My Life with Al Qaeda, by Omar Nasiri. It is the jaw-dropping story of a former spy that infiltrated the most dangerous terrorist organization on the planet, and lived to tell about it. And this is a post telling you to go get this book – as in right now.
If you haven’t heard of “Mars One“, then let me bring you up to speed. Eight short years from now, the first human – and private – mission to mars will commence, and those pioneers will not be coming back to Earth. The Mars One mission is that of colonization: to “establish a human settlement on Mars.” (Source) Yeah, pretty incredible stuff, right? Most folks’ first response when hearing about this plan – if they didn’t dismiss it entirely to begin with – is that no private company (let alone the US government) would be able to finance a perpetual colonization mission on Mars, and they pose a very valid point. However, the billionaire founder of Mars One has proposed an absolutely ingenious solution to the money problem: first of course, he will get the mission started with his own checkbook, but what will blow you away is the second half of his plan – Mars One will be a 24/7 reality freaking television show. No, I am not kidding. Everyone on the planet will now be able to watch – and watch they will – the first humans travel to, land and colonize the red planet, and television networks will pay just about every dollar they can find in their couches to get airing rights. You’re excited now, aren’t you? So what does this have to do with Andy Weir’s latest sci-fi suspense/thriller, The Martian? Everything.
His name is Temeraire. And he’s hell-bent on saving his rider from Napoleon’s vast army.
Now you may be thinking that this book was published in 2006 – so why are we reading about this eight years later. My response would be: would you never watch The Matrix just because you didn’t see it right when it came out? No, you’d watch it. You’d watch it.
So you know when you watch the Lord of the Rings, any of them, and you see Gandalf, and you think, now there’s a good guy. Well, this story doesn’t go that way. At all. In fact, Gandalf is a manipulative, conniving bastard who would rather spin progress back a thousand years than foster scientific progress. In fact, he’s against Mordor because the Mordorians (that’s a real word!) are on the brink of an industrial revolution, and that bodes poorly for a civilization hell-bent on living like Shyamalan’s village people.