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Book Review: Robert Zubrin The Holy Land – Those Magic Eye Posters Give Me An Ice Cream Headache

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In a world of corrupt and greedy politicians, where racial profiling is the norm, it stands to reason that a group of aliens taking over a small city in the northwest would bring out the very worst in our nation’s leaders, right?

That’s just the beginning for the people of Kennewick, Washington. It’s also just the beginning of the story for anyone picking up The Holy Land by Robert Zubrin.

According to the book cover, “The Holy Land is a science fictional retelling of circumstances in the Middle East, from the creation of Israel through the current War on Terror.”

Some salient points are made in this book. But, to get there, one needs to focus and refocus a dozen or so times to keep them in mind.

Think of one of those Magic Eye posters. You know, the ones where you have to look at the picture through slightly blurred eyes for 15 minutes before you see anything. Some people get a glimpse of the hidden image. Others only get a headache.

That’s what this book was for me. A Magic Eye poster. I KNEW what the book was about, but I can’t honestly say that I’d have pulled any of the main points from the text if I hadn’t been told what to expect ahead of time.

To me, the story should provide all those elements. The author shouldn’t have to tell the reader that the book is a satire of current events. The characters and plotlines should pull the reader in and allow one to dwell within the story long enough to walk away with exactly those points.

The idea of America as the bad guy – I could buy that. The idea that intergalactic nations are assisting/hindering negotiations between Americans and aliens (claiming the American city to be the place of their origin) as they attempt to bring peace to a region that’s formerly only known peace – I could buy that. What I couldn’t take was the heavy-handed attempts at claims that we’ve lost all sense of reason and that we’re all a bunch of damn dirty apes.

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis tackled the subject of logic and thought/language without emotionalism attached wonderfully. Zubrin’s attempt to do the same is far less effective and left this reader somewhat resentful of the time I gave the book. My main point of contention, I believe, comes from the fact that the higher beings, the new settlers in Kennewick, claim to be ruled by Reason, as do the other intergalactic players. Yet, time after time, emotion leaps in and robs anyone of any clear action.

I suppose that Zubrin thought I’d be pleased with the fact that all but earthlings are goddess worshipping beings. My handle (Da Goddess) is satire at its worst – especially for those who really know me. Zubrin’s use of goddesses hardly fairs as well. In fact, the most dismaying (and yes, this is a part of the lampooning) is that the princesses, 1st class or otherwise, play with the minds of men as a means of entertainment and they still defer to men on the subject of warfare.

As scattered and uneven as this review seems, it’s merely a reflection of the book itself. I felt torn with this novel. I wanted desperately to like it. The potential is there. The basic ideas are wonderful. The execution is less than appealing. It took me, the Evelyn Wood Speed Reader Award Winner 1978 through 2002, almost a full month to slog my way through the book. Normally, I can’t stop reading something until I’ve devoured the entire piece. Almost a month. That’s a long time to spend trying to read (give or take) 300 pages.

Robert Zubrin’s heart is in the right place, but he’s focused his attention on too many areas for it to translate well to one great big wonderful picture. Like the Magic Eye poster, or an Impressionist painting, too much detail in too many small sections can distract the viewer/reader from an overall clear view of the big picture.

Zubrin’s The Holy Land is an earnest effort to put events in the Middle East into perspective using humor. Unfortunately, for this reader, the humor fell flat and I was left wishing for a return on a cover charge I didn’t even have to pay.

If you’re looking for excellent writing from this man, try his non-fiction. If you want romance, stick with any number of Judy Blume novels – which roughly approximate the level of Zubrin’s attempts in Holy Land. If you’re looking for a cure for your insomnia, well…..this book would do the trick.

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About Joan Hunt

  • Ouch! If you’re looking for a cure for your insomnia, well…..this book would do the trick.

    I knew “internationally renowned astronautical engineer” Robert Zubrin from the excellent documentary on Discovery Science Channel, about the expeditions in Antartica and the Arctic to simulate a Mars landing. His Mars on Earth was cited in that program.

  • Again, while I thought this attempt at a satirical novel missed the mark, his other work allows his intelligence to shine.