The Traveler’s Guide to Space by Neil F Comins

Turning dreams into nightmares…

😐 😐

the-travelers-guide-to-spaceThe ultimate adventure of space tourism is likely to become a reality within the next few decades, at least for the very, very rich. It’s not something I ever actually anticipate doing now – too old, too poor – but a girl can still dream! And I’ve dreamed of going into space all my life, having grown up during the great space race era of the ’60s and early ’70s. One of my most wonderful memories is of crowding round a small TV in a boarding house (we were on holiday at the time) watching the grainy pictures of the first moon landing. I anticipated that, by the time I was an adult, we’d be visiting the moon as easily as popping over to Europe.

In this book, Neil Comins sets out to describe the realities of what a space tourist might expect. He starts off with a clear, simple description of the objects in the solar system that we may one day soon be able to visit, from sub-orbital flights, to the International Space Station or commercial equivalents, to the Moon, comets, the moons of Mars, and possibly Mars itself! Inspiring, huh?

Approaching Dust Storm on Mars by Ludek Pesek
Approaching Dust Storm on Mars by Ludek Pesek

Well, no, unfortunately. Comins clearly is one of those travellers (I’ll revert to the correct British spelling of the word now) who is so busy thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong, he forgets to stop and look at the view. From sick-bags to radiation poisoning, no potential pitfall is left unexamined. It all starts OK, with him giving a realistic idea of the training a traveller would be expected to undergo, what they would wear, eat, etc. But then he starts a catalogue of woe. Where it might be sufficient to say that people on long flights would have to contend against boredom, Comins goes on to talk about the features and symptoms of boredom at great length (somewhat ironically, I felt). While it might be useful to point out that group dynamics have to be carefully controlled, he chunters on about all the various personality clashes that might make life intolerable. When talking about the type of food that will be available, he doesn’t neglect to point out the dangers of flatulence. From speeding particles piercing the optic nerve to the symptoms of PTSD, no misery is left unexplored.


He picks it up towards the end by talking about space photography and the joys of sex in microgravity, but sadly by that time I was exhibiting all the symptoms of anxiety, depression and boredom, so was incapable of anything other than a desire to get back to terra firma. So when he went on to explain that the effects of microgravity might make sex quite problematic for both men and women, I barely had enough strength left to be disappointed. I’m afraid I skim-read the last third or so.

Given my undying love for Star Trek and my belief that life on Mars crab-cartoonhas to be better than life on Earth (no Brexit, no Trump, no soccer – bliss!), it amazed me that Comins could actually make a wet weekend in Bognor sound exciting in comparison to space travel. Though I’m sure if he wrote a book about Bognor, he’d warn of flu germs, the drying effects of the salt in seawater, and lethal crabs lurking in the sand to nip unwary toes.

More seriously, the book is extraordinarily dull, with lengthy bullet point lists of symptoms of everything from anxiety to bipolar disorder, and even of things you should try to see from space, starting with

  • the Earth
  • the Moon
  • the Sun…

Gosh, that’s helpful! I’d never have thought of looking out for any of those things! He has taught me one invaluable thing should I ever be lucky enough to go into space – to check the passenger list to make sure Comins isn’t going on the same trip. I fear those group dynamics may well task the most conciliatory captain. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out to gaze at the stars and resume my dreaming…


NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Columbia University Press.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

46 thoughts on “The Traveler’s Guide to Space by Neil F Comins

  1. Fabulous review, FictionFan! I’m sorry the book was such a disappointment, though. It could have been really interesting, and you’re right that space travel is likely to be more and more a part of our lives. I wonder if anyone’s thought of a book about the risks of reading certain kinds of books…..


  2. You definitely have to possess the right temperament and outlook to engage in space travel and it doesn’t seem that Mr. Comins would make a very good astronaut. Boredom as compared to the wonder of actually being in outer space? Sure, you’d be stuck in a tin can for a long time. But think of all that time to read! Readers are never bored, except when reading books such as this one. Happier reading next time!


    • I know! Which is a pity because there were moments when I’d have been willing to buy him a ticket to Mars – one-way… 😉 Yes, if I ever go into space, I think I’ll forget the guide books and just take along some decent fiction and a telescope instead!


  3. A “catalogue of woes” sounds vaguely like earth travel! But at least I can get far far away from Trump. However, I might miss the comedy and spectacle of it all… Hmmm… Total toss-up!


  4. I really enjoyed this review! The book’s premise is so interesting, sadly it sounds like the author just couldn’t follow through 😦 I also hate professional sports of all kind. What a freaking waste of time…


  5. MARVELLOUS. Thank you, I enjoyed all that HUGELY. Particularly the idea of you checking the passenger list. Nasty soul that I am, I wondered if he would ever make his way here, possibly as a friend of someone having a bad hair day (snicker, chortle, guffaw) Do you suppose he might secretly just not want anyone to be on the spacecraft with him, and is just deliberately putting everyone off so he can have more space for farting, without having to smell anyone else’s in a confined space?


    • Hahaha! I have to admit the flatulence was more off-putting than the pierced optic nerve! One can quite see that a flatulent shipmate with a penchant for bean-eating may well cause problems with the old group dynamics… one wonders if he is suffering PTSD from a similar experience in a closed railway carriage in his youth…


    • Hahaha! Yes, and then if one of your colleagues was having a particularly flatulent day, you could open the door and leave – not an advisable course of action in a spaceship! Though if Comins was my shipmate, I’d still consider it… 😉


  6. I love your two-star reviews! I mean, I’m sorry you suffered through it, but it makes for entertaining blog posts! 🙂 I have to say that I’ve never once wanted to go in space. I’m afraid that my own anxieties barely let me get through airplane travel. So I can say for certain that this is one book I won’t be adding to my giant TBR!


  7. FF–where are you posting from? Your blog is coming in clear as a bell here in Mars. We like to keep a journal of where the communications come from . . .
    thank you for a most interesting point of view on our spatial life.


    • What?? You’ve made it to Mars already?? Look to your left – I’m on that little comet just shooting over your head… see, I’m waving!!

      Haha! Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂


  8. Wow, I won’t be reading this! I loved every bit of this review! I always hear about how space travel would be awesome blahblah so at first I thought having a more balanced view would be fun but the guy does take all the fun away!


  9. What in earth is the point of a book telling us how terrible space travel is since very few people will even get a chance to ever try? The author sounds like a grump! I did enjoy your review though!


    • I know!! I assumed it was going to be a kidna fun, inspiring read for dreamers, not a list of all the horrors that could go wrong for real travellers – a very small market! Grrr… how dare he trash my dreams?? Haha – glad you enjoyed it though… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh no, FF, I’m sorry this guy put such a damper on your space travel plans! By the sounds of it, though, he’s just a big stick-in-the-mud. Don’t invite him on any of your trips!


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