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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 454/700 pages
Aurora: In Search of the Northern Lights
Melanie Windridge
Progress: 205/320 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 164/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 159/448 pages
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages
I Am a Cat
Graeme Wilson, Aiko Ito, Sōseki Natsume
Progress: 410/638 pages
The Complete Novels of Jane Austen
Jane Austen
Progress: 651/1220 pages

Jupiter War, Neal Asher

Jupiter War - Neal Asher

Space Opera!

Pew! Pew!

Best read by people who don't know any science, like Asher himself.

I often criticise Asher for have lots of Pew! Pew! and no subtext but in this case I think that would be a bit unfair: There's a discussion of what it means to be "free" going on here, which concludes that here is no such thing as complete freedom. In practice, within any society, you only have the rights and freedoms that society allows. On the other hand, the society provides policing and justice. Therefore, the real question is how to organise a society that maximises individual freedom whilst minimising crime. Asher doesn't really offer any good answers to this perennial political poser, instead focusing on the dangers of corruption and bureaucracy. (I get the impression Asher hates the European Union in general and the European Commission in particular.)


Another issue raised is that of human over-population and its impact on the general planetary ecology. The power crazed dictator presented here wants to personally genetically control both human life-span and fertility, an idea branded as morally defective essentially just by association with its deranged progenitor. Again, Asher is not offering any alternatives he'd prefer. The fact is that population control is the most important political and moral issue of our time and nobody is talking about it, let alone taking any action, except the Chinese - and this ties directly back in to the question of personal freedom: should it be an individual's choice whether or not to have children? Should the State forcibly limit the number of children one can have? If you're against such Draconian action by the State, what do you propose instead?


The likelihood is that unless concerted action is taken, an uncontrolled Malthusian population crash is in the offing. It is likely that this will be accompanied by resource wars across the globe as food, water and material resources become scarce. Indeed, some argue the resource wars started in 1991 in Iraq and haven't yet ceased.


Now, I can't really criticise Asher for not presenting a solution to all this; I don't have one and I haven't ever heard of one that isn't either a) State control with loss of individual rights over one's own body or b) educate people and hope most people act responsibly or c) give everybody access to a high energy society because this correlates with a drop in the birth-rate.


The last of these is, unfortunately, not going to work: as migrants from less developed nations have entered the highest-energy Western economies, the birth-rate decline has reversed. Additionally, a global population of 7 billion with an individual resource-use equivalent to that of the USA or even of Western Europe (we're somewhat more efficient here but not extremely) is unsustainable: a somewhat old stat is that the mean energy use of one USA citizen is equivalent to that of 8 Africans.


So what are we supposed to do? Well done, Neal, for at least raising the issue, even if your understanding of science remains terrible and your space operas remain bloated and somewhat incoherently plotted.


Pew! Pew! BOOM!