An Optimist's Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson
|An Optimist's Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson|
|Category: Popular Science|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: Putting the 'popular' back in 'popular science' this is an absolute winner: entertaining, educational, jaw dropping. Mark Stevenson was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: January 2011|
|Publisher: Profile Books Ltd|
In 1968, the film 2001 A Space Odyssey had an optimistic view of the future we would soon be living in. In terms of technological advancement we're not quite there yet, even though that date has a decade since passed, so maybe it's time for a revised view of what is to come. Enter Mark Stevenson, a stand up comic slash scientist. It's perhaps not the most familiar of combinations, but take the best bits of each and the result is this wonderful book that combines humour and fun with proper nitty, gritty, science stuff.
The book is a series of semi-self contained essays that can be read en masse or individually, if, that is, you're able to put it down. Never before have I been so captivated by a piece of non-fiction. There are various good-enough books out there, but this is something else. Covering everything from robots to the environment, space exploration to eternal life, the book tracks Stevenson as he treks around the globe, meeting people on the cutting edge of science, and turning their babble into clear descriptions, ideas and explanations Joe Bloggs can understand.
The author wangled himself interviews with some of the eminent minds out there, a number of times getting to people who are not normally fans of talking to the press. It was worth his effort, though, to get la crème de la crème and in doing so he uncovers ideas and developments not widely reported previously. At the same time, his brief bios of his subjects are as equally intriguing as their works in progress, and give you a feel for the bodies behind the minds.
This is a really funny book to read, in a good way. His background as a comic has clearly stood the author in good stead, and his writing is witty and insightful, with just a smidge of endearing geekiness thrown in for good measure. His personality shines through in his commentary, and you can't help but get the impression he'd be an ace dinner party guest.
No one knows what the future holds, but we can speculate. This is a positive book about how great the coming decades could be, and leaves you inspired rather than depressed – after all, the title tells you the author is optimistic. It's a cheerful read and Stevenson's enthusiasm is contagious. It's a great antidote to a world where newspapers are filled with doom and gloom, wars, natural disasters and untimely death on a daily basis.
They say that nobody likes change, but this book begs to differ. The people Stevenson talks to believe it's not only the only way, but also something to be extremely excited about, and by the last page I defy you to disagree. Ultimately the future's coming whether we like it or not – now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that mankind doesn't mess things up too badly in the process.
You can find some pictures and video relating to the book here.
Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.
Too impatient to wait for the future to arrive? Why not have a look at The Bookbag's Newest Science Fiction Reviews.
Mark Stevenson was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy An Optimist's Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy An Optimist's Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson at Amazon.com.
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