Book Review: A Step Farther Out

Pournelles ever-timely essays

Pournelle's ever-timely essays

Jerry Pournelle’s essays, A Step Farther Out, were published as a book in 1979—thirty years ago. A bit late for a review, you say? Do you belong to a procrastinators club? No and no. My justification for reviewing this “old” book is two-fold. One, I just ran across it; and two, the themes of its opening essays are so timely they could have been written for today.

Now I am going to confess that I have read only the first third of the book. The remaining essays may turn out to be dogs (although I doubt it), but the opening essays are electrifying.

In “Survival with Style” and “A Blueprint for Survival” Pournelle points out the doomsday mentality of American intellectuals and the danger of losing our nerve. He shows that our problems are soluble if we think big and allow innovation.

I was especially interested in his defiance of the Club of Rome’s doom-and-gloom. Not only are those guys wrong on almost every testable count, but their solutions point directly to the ten-headed dragon-state of Revelation. Pournelle saw straight through them.

Unfortunately, we seem to be taking the path Pournelle begged us to avoid: we lost our nerve. We are following the nay-sayers of the Club of Rome. Pournelle was calling us to faith—faith that with clear thinking, big dreams and hard work we could triumph over our obstacles. As a Christian I see those virtues springing from trust in God (which is why intellectuals by and large have no vision; they have jettisoned God).

Not many looks at social issues hold up so well as Pournelle’s. I rather think every such book ought to be reviewed in thirty years. We’d see then who were our Wormtongues and who talked straight.

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