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Book Review: The Science of Avatar / Author: Stephen Baxter / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now

It’s exceptionally easy to be cruel about James Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster Avatar, especially as it’s a fairly simple morality tale about looking after the environment, though one with big blue cat people and a 3D gimmick. It does, however, have a consistent and well thought out world, and Cameron is known for being very thorough when it comes to making his science fiction fantasy as realistic as possible.

The Science of Avatar takes Cameron’s work and uses it as an excuse to explore the wonderful world of science. Baxter is a well regarded science-fiction writer and also a scientist, and he takes the reader through the basics with an extremely engaging and entertaining narrative style. Avid readers of New Scientist magazine will find no great revelations here; this is very much a science book for the casual science fiction fan, but Baxter does pepper the book with lots of interesting insights and a sense of fun.

Highlights include quite a neat explanation of Unobtainium (the plot McGuffin from the movie), the ecology of alien worlds and one of Baxter’s favourite topics; space flight. It doesn’t really given any real insights into the movie; anyone expecting an explanation as to exactly how a global organic neural network would actually work may find themselves a bit disappointed. This is not a book filled with deep insights, but it’s a great way to conquer one’s fear of all things science related.

The Science of Avatar is firmly aimed at the non-science nerd, but for those looking to understand more about the science part of science fiction, then this is a pretty good place to start.

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