Friday, July 14, 2017

Weintraub, Religions and Extraterrestrial Life (2014)

David A. Weintraub, Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How will we deal with it? Springer-Praxis, 2014. Pp. xiii+234. ISBN 978-3-319-05055-3. $34.99.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Weintraub’s Religions and Extraterrestrial Life is a work of popular astronomy and theology, written by an academic astrophysicist and published by an imprint of Springer, one of the large academic publishing multinationals that dominate the market. The core thesis of this volume is that we are within a generation at most of either discovering extraterrestrial life (if not intelligence), or learning that it is extremely rare, at least in our part of the universe. He then sets out to discuss how various major world religions will deal with this scientific knowledge, based primary on the foundation texts and/or mainstream theology of each movement, and ultimately concludes that most faith groups will be largely unshaken by the news (either way)—either because their tenets allow for non-human life, or because they are already in the business of denying science and so will have no qualms about ignoring it. As an astronomer, Weintraub’s chapters popularizing the detection of exoplanets and the possibility of astrobiology are extremely well-written, successful and useful; his forays into theology are more patchy, one-sided, and in many places disappointingly shallow. On the whole this is a valuable and interesting book, both thoughtful for non-specialists interested in extraterrestrial life, and a contribution to the critical discussion about religion and science.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Willett, The Cityborn (2017)

Edward Willett, The Cityborn. DAW Books, 2017. Pp. 416. ISBN 978-0-75641-177-0. $26.00.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

At first, Danyl can’t believe his luck. Raised by Erl in the Middens, the dumping ground for trash from the City that towers above, Danyl’s tired of the hardscrabble life. If only he could strike a lucky find that he can parlay into a city pass! That’s when Alania falls into his life. Alania has led a pampered life in the upper tiers of the City, reserved for Officers and the wealthy. But something goes terribly wrong and Alania ends up inadvertently added to a load of trash dumped from the topmost tiers of the City. When Alania drops from the City, screaming her dismay and enveloped in a bundle of cloth, Danyl sees her as a dream come true. Surely, he thinks, someone will want her back! All he has to do is get her to the Last Chance Market, and—