A Review: The Holy Land (return of a review originally published in 2005)
The Holy Land is a satirical novel that takes serious aim at contemporary human weaknesses (political correctness and religious fanaticism are among its prime targets). While these weaknesses provide ample pretext for a great satirical novel, what makes The Holy Land special is its science fiction approach to providing the reader (and particularly Americans) with a better insight into the insanity that perpetuates the Middle East crisis. By bringing the Middle East conflict home to the U.S. and casting the U.S. in the role of the Arab nations opposing Israel, Zubrin provides a clever lens through which Americans can view the Middle East conflict.
This is a book that is hard to put down and its humor has the reader giggling throughout. The insanity and follies of contemporary TV news reporting, scheming politicians, and United Nations ineptitude are brilliantly showcased. Exaggeration is a wonderful tool for driving home a point and Zubrin uses the technique skillfully and with humor.
All the characters that have brought us the Arab-Israeli crisis are well represented. The Minervans (cast in the role of Israelis) are an historically oppressed galactic human sect who worship "reason" and are being relocated by their friends, the Western Galactic Empire (the "Western world"), to their ancient homeland which they had left 20,000 years ago. The only hitch is that their homeland is now known as Kennewick, Washington. The Kennewickians (cast in the role of Palestinians) are initially relocated peacefully, Minervans buying the property of Kennewickians who resettle willingly to other locations. However, the corrupt U.S. government (led by a religious fanatic) sees Minervans as Pagans who must be expelled ("Their cash may be good, but those people did not go through immigration."). Of course the attempt to expel them using armed forces fails miserably in the face of vastly superior Minervan defenses. When military action fails, the U.S. (Arabs) creates refugee camps on the outskirts of Kennewick and forcibly resettles former Kennewickians to the squalid conditions deliberately created and maintained in the refugee camps. A religious zealout trains the children in these camps to become martyrs by arming them with six-shooters for the purpose of killing Minervans. Of course, this tactic fails to achieve any significant death toll among the Minervans who have a defense mechanism that destroys the guns. In blasting the guns while they're being used by the children, the children lose the hand holding the gun in the process and, without any medical attention, the injured children will bleed to death. However, the real reason for using the children as martyrs is to provide a showcase for the galactic news media to plead the case that the Minervans are slaughtering innocent children. Sound familiar?
The major characters in this story are Aurora (a Minervan Priestess, 3rd Class) and Sergeant Andrew Hamilton, U.S. Army Ranger POW (the only survivor of the ill-fated military attacks). Hamilton becomes Aurora's "specimen," thanks to the Minervan's telepathic ability to project suggestions. Aurora was among a group of Minervans on a picnic when Hamilton's Ranger group launched their attack. All Hamilton's comrades in arms were killed when their weapons exploded (thanks to the Minervan defenses). Hamilton's life was spared because moments before his gun exploded he tossed it aside -- he was the only Ranger to heed the advice of Aurora's mental suggestion (of course, Hamilton believes it was his own quick thinking that saved him). Thus Hamilton becomes the Earthling specimen for Aurora's studies. While Earthlings believe they are "human," Hamilton discovers that that view is not shared by the rest of the "human" galactic inhabitants (Aurora to Hamilton: "You Earthlings are quite insane.").
There is a strong undercurrent of the battle between reason, love, and justice. The Minervans, who hold reason supreme, are confronted with both the insanity of Earthlings and the unreasonable consequences of Galactic sects who subsume reason to notions of love (emotion) and justice (fairness). The resulting silliness is a compelling reflection of our current abandonment of reason at a time when we need it the most.
The strong case for the supremacy of reason over emotion and fairness are reminiscent of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. The notes Rand made before constructing Atlas Shrugged contain this passage: "Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it." You cannot reason with the unreasonable. Zubrin underscores that point repeatedly with examples that have familiar counterparts in today's reality. Though not to be compared with Atlas Shrugged, The Holy Land is it's own powerful plea for the application of reason and common sense when dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I heartily recommend The Holy Land to anyone with a sense of humor and a reverence for reason.
Bob Webster, a 12th-generation descendent of both the Darte family (Connecticut, 1630s) and the Webster family (Massachusetts, 1630s) is a descendant of Daniel Webster's father, Revolutionary War patriot Ebenezer Webster, who served with General Washington. Bob has always had a strong interest in early American history, our Constitution, U.S. politics, and law. Politically he is a constitutional republican with objectivist and libertarian roots. He has faith in the ultimate triumph of truth and reason over deception and emotion. He is a strong believer in our Constitution as written and views the abandonment of constitutional restraint by the regressive Progressive movement as a great danger to our Republic. His favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and believes it should be required reading for all high school students so they can appreciate the cost of tolerating the growth of unconstitutional crushingly powerful central government. He strongly believes, as our Constitution enshrines, that the interests of the individual should be held superior to the interests of the state.
A lifelong interest in meteorology and climatology spurred his strong interest in science. Bob earned his degree in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1964.