A City on Mars

Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?

Hardcover, 448 pages

Published Nov. 7, 2023

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5 stars (3 reviews)

Earth is not well. The promise of starting life anew somewhere far, far away - no climate change, no war, no Twitter - beckons, and settling the stars finally seems within our grasp. Or is it? Bestselling authors Kelly and Zach Weinersmith set out to write the essential guide to a glorious future of space settlements, but after years of original research, and interviews with leading space scientists, engineers and legal experts, they aren't so sure it's a good idea. Space tech and space business are progressing fast, but we lack the deep knowledge needed to have space-kids, build space-farms and create space nations in a way that doesn't spark conflict back home. In a world hurtling toward human expansion into space, A City on Mars investigates whether the dream of new worlds won't create a nightmare, both for settlers and the people they leave behind.

With deep expertise, a …

2 editions

Accessible and intricately researched

5 stars

Accessible and intricately researched, with scattered humor to keep the reader's interest.

Getting to space is the easy part. Staying there is going to be a lot more complicated than anyone wants to believe. There are plenty of established tropes in science-fiction and among serious space enthusiasts, but a lot of them have major gaps in them when you start pressing for details. What happens to a fetus in microgravity? Can you scrape together enough soil nutrients to supply agriculture for a whole Mars city, or do you need to constantly import fertilizer from Earth? How do you make sure you have enough medical supplies on-hand?

The authors wanted to write about what we know about space settlement. But it turns out it's a really good primer for what we don't know and need to research before we can get serious.

It's also an interesting companion to Under Alien Skies …

A City on Mars

4 stars

A City on Mars is an enjoyable and easy to read non-fiction book about the (non)feasibility of space habitation. It's got a comedic-but-serious tone, which is not unexpected as half of the authors are responsible for the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic strip. Lots of digressions and breadth, but all enjoyable and accessible.

Despite space being really cool, I am personally went into this (and left!) with extreme skepticism about the feasibility of humans living in space any time soon. (It just feels like billionaire escapism from real problems that they are disproportionately responsible for causing!) There's probably some confirmation bias in my enjoyment here, as a warning. This book also treats several billionaires with much more respect than they deserve, although it's not fawning over them either.

We're pretty good at shooting things into space at this point (even if it's expensive) but largely past that I think I …

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5 stars


  • Nonfiction
  • Science
  • Space
  • Technology
  • Politics
  • Sociology