Titan by Stephen Baxter

This is one of those deep deep science fiction reads; lots of science and engineering concepts that must’ve taken an eon to research and tie together into a story.

Titan tells the tale of the first manned expedition to Titan – one of Saturn’s moons that is believed to be capable of supporting life. (The scientists have evidence that somewhere on the moon, something is breathing.)

Now, this definitely isn’t the same kind of adventure as the galaxy spanning Noumenon Trilogy, where thousands of highly-trained clones set off highly advanced starships, on a journey that will take centuries to complete.

No, this book starts in 2008, and takes a handful of astronauts on a six-year journey to a Titan, travelling on an old shuttle cobbled together from whatever parts NASA has lying around, before the whole Administration is subsumed by the US Department of Agriculture.

Needless to say, no one (least of all, the astronauts) expects the team to return. Indeed, they all signed on knowing that, in all likelihood, the mission is a one-way trip.

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The Wave by Todd Strasser

Not my usual genre of choice, but this was recommended by a German friend of mine. I’m a great believer in looking into the past to examine how sociopaths manage to get elected into high office. Successive German governments follow a similar path, which is why The Wave is required reading in German schools.

The Wave

The Wave is a true story and tells of a … well, let’s call it a learning experiment carried out by a history teacher in a US school. The teacher – perhaps foolishly – wanted to show Naziism managed to sweep, apparently unopposed, across Germany.

To this end, the teacher came up with a club for the children, which offered success through discipline, preparedness, and hard work. The ‘club’ had strict rules and promoted equality for all (and that’s a deviation from Naziism right there).

The problem was that the experiment soon got out of hand, with pupils being threatened if they refused to join, and being assaulted if they dared to criticise it. Inevitably, members started using it persecute people who didn’t seem to fit (Jews).

A real eye-opener. After spending a few hours listening, I thought, “So that’s how that happens.” What’s more troubling is seeing it happen again. …

The most troubling aspect of the whole experiment is realising that as human beings, we possess an inherent flaw in our makeup: a self-destructive desire to be enslaved by anyone with a loud voice.