The Other Things – Jonathan Dransfield

If man can’t get to Mars, perhaps child can

From what’s certain to be an apocalypse leading to a decision to recreate the space race of the last century, this story has a perfect balance of tension and humour at the right moments.

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Jonathan Dransfield was a child when man first stood on the moon.  There was an expectation that the next place to visit would be Mars.  It never happened but the awe and wonder of the solar system and the universe has lived with him since.

When the current interest in visiting the red planet resurfaced he felt that crazy schemes like sending people on a one-way trip were not the way to go.  As an architect he was used to designing things and solving problems.

The key problem is weight.  To date we have dropped only robots onto the surface, as the problem of a manned mission is getting the crew back off the planet.  Solving this is the key.

Perhaps it was the fact that Dransfield and his partner have nine kids between them that compelled him to write this book.  He also knows that kids at times can be smarter than adults, especially with modern technology.

Dransfield is a visual person and used his drawing talents to develop the plot.  The Other Things is an illustrated book – and a study on how to go to Mars and get some peace and quiet.

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Excerpt

Luther leaned back for a few moments. He could lose himself gazing at the presidential seal on the ceiling, and in difficult times he had. Luther settled his mind before hitting the buzzer. This was the most important meeting he’d probably ever have.

A portion of wall opened slowly. Ushered in through one of the servants’ doors, Ford blinked, then, spotting the president riffling through a drawer, he hovered.

Luther Garvey got up and swiftly approached. He took Ford’s right hand in both of his. ‘Thank you!’ he said, smiling. ‘Can you hear me now?’

Ford cupped his hand to his ear. ‘Loud and clear, sir!’

Into his hand Luther had slipped an object. Ford stared down at the charred, heavy pebble. The president stepped back a pace. ‘Call me Luther. Yes! That’s a bit of the asteroid.’ Looking at the main door, he added, ‘They suggested a medal for your enterprise, your organisation, your calculations… but I think this is more appropriate. In any case, I have another reward.’

The president continued, ‘We should have a drink, but I hear you’re flying. I half-expected you to arrive in one of your famous campers. Coffee, then?’

Luther gestured to the stiff gold sofas and they both sat, facing each other. ‘Sir…’ began Ford.

The president corrected him, ‘Luther!’

‘Erm, erm… Luther, thank you, but it wasn’t just me, it was the team and we didn’t change anything, we just tracked it.’

‘You got it right and you kept a lid on it when needed. Believe you me, I am not one for secrecy, but I’ve been here long enough to know some things need to be classified. Folks were not going to react like “the young lady in the green hat”, and imagine the chaos on the stock exchanges if we weren’t sure it would miss us!’

‘There’s been enough physical damage without all that. I suppose it just gave us time to plan for it,’ mused Ford.

They talked about the effects of the asteroid: how the blast broke every window in Iceland, the tsunamis, the noise that – like Krakatoa – echoed round the world like a bell, how they had been able to plan and agree with other governments the best time to release information, how Ford’s team had been central to this, their increasing certainty that all would be OK after all. It had helped Luther’s leadership worldwide. For once, politics had had to take a back seat and everyone co-operated. The last three months had brought a change in Luther. They had given a new focus to his presidency. It had also given him time to reflect, and he had decided to do something big.

They paused and sipped coffee.

‘We’re from the same generation. When I was a child, it was tough, but the future held a vision. We really thought we would be living Kennedy’s dream: the moon, new frontiers and progress. Though I never dreamed I’d be in the White House.’ In his famous deeper voice he added, ‘It’s time to rekindle our faith in the future.’

Ford understood. ‘Well, yes, sir… Luther. Even as a little kid it felt like a brave new world. It became my life. But in reality, it’s just been more The Simpsons than The Jetsons.’

‘Well, Ford, I have three years left in this office to do something significant. I remember sitting with my dad as we landed on the moon. We felt there were no bounds out there, only here on the Earth. Do you remember Kennedy’s speech about going to the moon? Well, it feels like a job unfinished. When he said to do “the other things”, I thought we would be going to the planets. We must not forget our dreams!’

Luther reached for an envelope and handed it to Ford. ‘What do they look like?’

Ford opened it and studied the photos it contained.

‘They are classified,’ Luther told him. ‘They have been taken by one of the Mars rovers.’

Ford scratched his head. ‘Wow, they look like fossils! They’re amazing! If only we could bring them back and study them.’ Luther patted him on the arm. ‘Well, that’s why you’re here. I’m sick of dealing with naysayers. I need someone with an open mind to help me. I want to do something big, that will change our perceptions!’ Luther was staring at Kennedy’s portrait. ‘We do these things because it is hard. I want us to be brave again and go to Mars – this time a manned mission.’

Well plotted and told, and involving a great cast of interesting and generally appealing characters. What’s more, there are jokes, informative explanations of scientific matters, and thoughtful consideration of ethical and moral issues.

Leo P. Ardskin

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The Other Things – Mars: Illustration from the book
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