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Blockbuster Science by David Siegel Bernstein #BookReview

Title: Blockbuster Science: The Real Science in Science Fiction | Author: David Siegel Bernstein | Publisher: Prometheus Books | Pub. Date: Oct 10th, 2017 | Pages: 329 | ISBN13: 9781633883697 | Genre: Nonfiction | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: I received a copy from the publisher for review consideration

Blockbuster Science: The Real Science in Science Fiction

If you’ve ever wondered how much real science goes into movies like Gravity, novels like The Martian, and television shows like Dr. Who, this is the book for you. Written by an author who is both a data scientist and a science fiction writer, this entertaining science primer provides lucid, jargon-free explanations of key scientific principles while referencing well-known science fiction books, movies, and TV shows. 

The reader learns about relativity through Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and the movie Interstellar; black holes and wormholes in connection with Contact and Planet of the Apes; theories about the origin of life as reflected in Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; computer science and artificial intelligence in reference to A.I. Artificial Intelligence; and much, much, more. 

Written with wit, clarity, and a great sense of fun, Blockbuster Science will inspire science fiction fans to get excited about real science while also putting an engaging pop culture spin on science for any curious reader.

Book cover for Blockbuster Science

Blockbuster Science Review

Blockbuster Science was a neat concept. As someone who loves hard science fiction, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It explores everything from Theory of Relativity, to String Theory, to Black Holes and everything in between. The chapters are short, kept as light-hearted as possible while still being informative, and obviously written by someone who truly loves science and science fiction.

I feel like Blockbuster Science would have been better as a coffee table book.

Yes, I think pretty pictures would have helped it out a lot.

It had very few photos, and most of what it did have were simple yet boring ones that we’ve all probably seen in some form several times before.

While I did genuinely enjoy reading several of the chapters, I found myself beset by the thought that I wasn’t really the right person for this book. Everything in Blockbuster Science was either something I’d read (lots) before, or something that went so completely over my head I could barely get a glimpse of it’s rear before it was out of sight. I picked this book up and put it back down several times before I actually got around to finishing it. It was never a bad book, it just felt unfinished/rough.

This is a science book for someone who doesn’t really want to science but like science at the same time. And while that sounds like it would be a really cool book in theory, in actuality, it just felt a bit off. Like it couldn’t quite figure out what it wanted to be. I think a pared down version, using (color) photographs and/or illustrations would have been able to hold my attention better. (Disclaimer from me: I’m the type of girl who likes to read Nat Geo and Discovery books about science for kids.)

One of the times when its easy to celebrate exactly how neat science is when you’re learning it in context of a great story. Its easy to see science as ‘the cool bits’, and much of that science is – indeed – awesome!  However, to take the cool bits and talk about them in a way that keeps a casual reader (or viewer’s attention) requires a certain way with words and a charisma that few have. As it is, Blockbuster Science feels a bit text-bookish, with pop-culture references that are fun but don’t really do enough to keep the momentum of fun + educational going.

Blockbuster Science had a lot going for it, and the information contained within it is very interesting. However, it neither fails or succeeds spectacularly and left me, as a reader, vaguely frustrated because I felt like it could have been so much better than it was.

Buy link: Amazon


Published inScience Fiction Book ReviewsUnstarred Reviews


  1. Brian Bixby

    Speaking of science in science fiction, I just got around to reading Tau Zero, which I recall you reading and reviewing a while back. Yay for treating relativity and theories of the cyclical universe!

    • Oh cool! I’m glad you finally read it! Beyond the yay of cyclical universe, what did you think?!

      • Brian Bixby

        Well, the writing style struck me as a bit old-fashioned, so much so that I was thinking it was written a decade earlier than it was. In truth, it does adhere to the plain simple style I associate with Asimov in the 1945-65 era.

        Once one gets past that, I have to acknowledge the ingenuity of the plot in finding good SCIENTIFIC reasons for continuing the ship’s acceleration and journey to the end of the universe and beyond. The psychology of bewilderment and hopelessness that afflicts the crew is done well enough, though I felt it have been perhaps a bit repetitious as the book continued. And then ending is rather abrupt, no doubt because Anderson had told the physics story he wanted to tell, though I must admit a longer ending could easily have become soap opera-like. I suspect a re-do these days would spend more time on the psychology than the physics, which says something about how sci-fi has changed.

        Overall, an enjoyable read. I put the book down at the end happy to have read it, finally. besides its own merits, it’s a call to remember that sci-fi can be about science DRIVING plots and character development, instead of merely ornamenting them.

        • The writing is old fashioned, definitely. I don’t think that bothered me too much though because I had sort of auto classed it as “old scifi” and therefore didn’t think further than that about it.

          And, yes, it’s hard to point out many modern sci-fi books where the science drives.

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