I was familiar with Annalee Newitz (Twitter) through her role as the editor-in-chief of io9.com. I also got to hear her speak on a panel at the Nebula Awards in DC. I wasn’t aware of her background as a science journalist. I only knew her as someone in the world of science fiction. But SCATTER, ADAPT, AND REMEMBER serves as a perfect bridge, blending science fact and science fiction, as it examines how pockets of life on earth have survived mass extinctions, and how humanity (in one form or another) can be among those survivors.
SCATTER, ADAPT, AND REMEMBER begins with a brief history of mass extinctions–very brief indeed, given that Newitz zooms through millions of years. But as a layman, I feel she did an excellent job providing the highlights: the suspected causes, the suspected results, and controversies.
Second, Newitz then provides a history of humanity’s evolution and spread across the planet. Looking at other comments and reviews, people have problems with this theory due to differing theories of humanity’s evolution. I can’t comment on the theories, as I am only a layman. I didn’t expect it to be a textbook, providing facts, figures, tables, and data. I expected it to be more of a pop science book–a book to whet my appetite and encourage me to dig deeper. She succeeded on that count.
Third, Newitz talks about survival strategies that frame the book: scattering, adapting, and remembering our history. Interestingly enough, she uses three different species in this chapter. Yet it is humanity’s ability to learn from the past and from other species that gives us our best chances of surviving.
Fourth, Newitz examines how cities have contributed to humanity’s advancement, as well as the advancement of plagues and disasters. At this point, the science starts to bleed into science fiction, as she talks about how cities will have to change to provide for humanity’s safety, care, and feeding. Newitz introduces topics like self-healing concrete and cities built on urban farms using biological structures.
Finally, Newitz talks about the future of humanity–the next evolution that will look at us like we look at Australopithecus. Here she talks about geoengineering, space elevators, nudging asteroids, and genetically modifying humans to live on extraterrestrial space bodies. As the timeline is longest here, opinions diverge the most here. It was interesting to compare biologists’ opinions to that of science fiction writers.
If you like io9.com’s informative, yet entertaining and humorous style, I think you will enjoy this book. This is a great introduction to a variety of topics, both historical and futuristic, and Newitz has provided substantial endnotes for readers who want to learn more. If you’re looking for a little change up in your beach reading, ditch the airport thrillers and pick up SCATTER, ADAPT, AND REMEMBER.