THE TRAVELLERS' GUIDE TO MARS
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
When I first heard of The Travellers' Guide to Mars, it sounded like a short humorous book about being a traveler on Mars. When I opened it up, I discovered that first impressions can be deceiving. The book is literally a guide to the planet Mars. Beginning with a brief outline of future planned Mars missions (no manned missions even planned yet), through a climatological and areological examination of the planet and finishing with a lengthy history of Mars.
The information is presented in a very readable, chatty, format. The authors stick to the conceit of writing a travel guide, without allowing the lack of transportation, hotels, museums, restaurants, etc. stand in their way.
The lengthiest section of this rather short volume is the history of Mars. Beginning with cosmogony and an explanation of planetary formation, the authors move forward to discuss how Mars was perceived by a variety of ancient civilizations. Eventually, the Renaissance began to alter views of the planet and in the nineteenth and early twentieth century the discussion turns to Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell. About the same time, Science Fiction was being created and a variety of myths about Mars are briefly examined, from H.G. Wells to Barsoom.
The Travellers' Guide to Mars is heavily illustrated, but because of the small size and orangish-tint given to all the photographs, they lack eye-catching appeal. Similarly, the inclusion of more charts would have been nice to summarize the astronomical and areological facts about Mars. The only charts included seem to relate to horoscopes and a viewers listing of dates.
The book also includes a brief bibliography on Mars in fiction, Mars in non-fiction, Mars in Music and Mars in film. Although not complete by any sense of the word, these lists provide a good starting point for someone who wants to learn more about Mars are examine how Mars has been depicted in literature, film and music. I was rather surprised by some of the listings in the Musicology section (which missed "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars").
The Travellers' Guide to Mars is, above all, a fun way to learn about the planet Mars. Cadogan has published a timely book which will allow people who have gained an interest in the red planet due to the Pathfinder and Orbiter missions to learn about the background to those missions in a fast and popular manner. Even readers who have knowledge of Mars will find this book informative, in the trivia it includes if not in the hard data.
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