Ready to feel really small and insignificant? Pick yourself up a copy of Blockbuster Science and prepare for a humbling, occasionally depressing, and frequently fascinating read. From exploring just how big the universe really is, to how life originated on Earth, right through to how life, the universe and everything will eventually end, this is a book more epic in scope than any blockbuster that has come before it. Except, maybe, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Author David Siegel Bernstein is one smart cookie. And while he tries to make the science accessible and mostly keep the tone light and the language almost conversational, Blockbuster Science is grappling with incredibly complex ideas and theories from quantum mechanics to string theory. It’s enough to make your brain ache for days. Bernstein can try and dumb it down in places, but a lot of this book still comes across like a nightmarish textbook to make an average student weep.
The promise of the book, its title, and the blurb on the back cover is that these complex ideas will be related to science fiction. This is where Blockbuster Science becomes a slippery customer and worms its way out of what it is supposed to be offering. Firstly, Bernstein often refers to his own short stories for examples of the application of real science to fiction. That might make you want to seek out his stories, but most readers were more likely lured in by the promise of references to films like Gravity and The Martian.
Secondly, the references to fiction are often very few and far between. Sometimes it feels like almost entire chapters can skip by without anything that film or TV fans can cling onto in this sea of scientific theory. And when the references do come, they are often in passing, and Bernstein has little interest in exploring a case study in any great depth.
It’s a shame there aren’t more detailed analyses of science fiction films, books and television as the science in this book is absolutely fascinating, richly researched and often mind-melting. Get past the first couple of tricky chapters and Blockbuster Science settles into a groove and quickly becomes a lot more accessible to anyone who doesn’t know their abiogenesis from their tachyon particles.
Well worth a read then, but just not quite exactly what is promised from the title and blurb.
BLOCKBUSTER SCIENCE: THE REAL SCIENCE IN SCIENCE FICTION / AUTHOR: DAVID SIEGEL BERNSTEIN / PUBLISHER: PROMETHEUS BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW