Cover Image: The Big Book of Mars

The Big Book of Mars

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Member Reviews

<i>[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]</i>

Originally, I received an excerpt, but promptly proceeded to order the actual book once I started reading it. (The paper version itself is hefty and printed on thick glossy paper and smells good, and yes, I know, I like smelling my books.)

This book deals with how we have perceived Mars, currently and historically, whether in reality or in fiction works, starting with the Victorian period. It abunds in colourful illustrations, which makes its reading all the more pleasant – especially if you do that in little chunks rather than all at once (but really, “all at once” is very tempting, because it is definitely interesting). The style is fairly humoristic in places, making for an entertaining read on top of an informative one – perhaps even more information would’ve been good here? I can never get enough when it comes to Mars, I guess.

I couldn’t decide at first whether I liked the choice of going by theme rather than purely chronologically, but in the end, the “themed” approach worked well enough. The other way might have been too much of a catalogue of dates. Also, it makes it easier to come back to it later knowing roughly what I’m looking for (“fiction about Mars”, and so on) even if I’ve completely forgotten by then when exactly that “thing” happened.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable book, and a pretty one to boot.

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For anyone who loves learning more about the Big Red Planet, The Big Book of Mars explains the fascination through history, the chronological research and discovery, and the potential future of our relationship with Mars.

Included are interviews, photos, and literature inspired by that red dot in the sky.

Great read for kids of all ages.

*I received a copy of the book for an honest review.

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Big, detailed, but too big and detailed. and a bit confusing as to its aims. Fun for a Mars nerd though I am sure!

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A fascinating excerpt of the book - in-depth and well researched, guaranteed to provide new information for both casual and experienced astronomy fans.

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The sample copy of The Big Book of Mars that I received was only 82 pages long, so I am reviewing these pages. The rest of the book should be different to what there was at the start but unfortunately I am unable to comment on the rest.

The Big Book of Mars attempts to collect all the historical thoughts and idea on Mars, life on Mars and how to get to Mars. Back in the early days, before modern astronomy, there were numerous idea as to what Martians looked like, what their cities and lifestyles were and almost all agreed that Martians were smarter than humans.

I struggled to get into this book, while I absolutely love space and was super interested to learn more about ‘the red planet’ I frequently putting this book down and had to force myself to pick it back up again.

While I struggled to enjoy the writing style, the actual information contained with these pages was of extreme interest. I learnt a great deal about how early astronomers shaped the publics opinion on our closest neighbour.

While our fascination with Mars has not waned, the only way that we are going to learn more our this planet is by going to it. The probes that have been launched in the past (and some that are still active on Mars) have given us a great insight as to what to expect when we arrive; I suspect that few will have gotten what Mars is actually like.

What I read was very well researched but ultimately did not hook me into the story that was being told.

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This is a fun and fascinating read for anyone curious about the planet Mars. There were lots of interesting facts that I didn't know, in particular about the way Mars has been seen by humans throughout history. The author writes in an accessible style - you don't need any prior knowledge of space exploration or science to enjoy the book. The stunning pictures and art make this book visually impressive, and it would make the perfect gift. This is a great book could be enjoyed by older children and adults alike.

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The first part (I only had an 87-page excerpt) of The Big Book of Mars, by Kevin Hartzman, is a solidly informative look at our neighboring planet beginning, well, at the beginning, with how ancient civilization observed and named it. From there it’s a quick tour through some early naked-eye speculation about the planet and its potential inhabitants, followed by the arrival of the telescope, which instead of dampening said speculation ratcheted it up, mostly due to a combination of poor resolution, poor transcription, and rich imagination. That combo of course, created the famous Martian canals. And if there were canals, then someone had to build them, leading to the “ancient civilization” trope that has become so familiar to us.

While I knew about the canals and the many theories/stories about Martians, I had been unaware of the various ideas about how to contact these Martians, such as Carl Gauss wanting to use pine trees and wheat fields in Siberia to create a mathematical illustration the Martians cold see. Or Joseph von Littrow’s plan to dig huge tunnels in the Sahara, fill them with kerosene, and set them alight on successive nights. Then there was Alexander Graham Bell, fresh off his invention of the telephone, who worked on the “photophone,” which would use light rays to carry sound through space (best not to wonder how the Martians would “pick up” since they didn’t have a photophone of their own). Tesla, as one might assume, got into the mix, declaring he could send wireless messages to Mars no problem (in fact, he claimed he’d already received one such message from them).

Eventually, of course, the canals were proven to be non-existent, and the hope (or fear) of an ancient Martian civilization died out. Though not the hope for life on the Red Planet. This time the vision was a bit more restrained — with the minority theory that Mars might harbor some vegetation or small animal life and the more accepted idea that the planet had organic life in microscopic form. This is the subject of chapter two, which begins with a somewhat offtopic but wholly fascinating look at how Satanism and drugs played a major role in the advancement of US rocketry. Hartzman cover this quickly and then moves on to the first few orbiters and landers. My excerpt ended with the Viking lander, so this is as far as I go.

As noted, the book is informative, but it sometimes feels a bit rushed and random, even if some of those random choice went down fascinating paths. I would have liked to spend more time in nearly all the subsections and had a better sense of the topic as well as the larger contexts. But while the text is adequate, the illustrations are numerous and absolutely wonderful, and Hartzman makes excellent use of them. Taking the old news stories as an example, Hartzman does a more than adequate job of describing what an article said, but one doesn’t fully appreciate the tone and atmosphere and belief until one sees the original article itself, with its own illustrations and its bold fonts and its exclamation points. Other illustrations, whether diagrams or photos from landers etc. similarly enhance the text.

It’s always hard to evaluate a book from an excerpt, but based on the rough one-third I was able to read, The Big Book of Mars looks like a solid informational text combined with excellent visuals, and thus a good book for anyone interested in Mars’ story.

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This is a great book.

Its funny, informative and flows very well. Our history and fascination with Mars is very well documented in this book as well as some of the more outlandish approaches.

The art and photos are very well done and bring it all together.

Although i had this as a netgalley ARC, i have pre-ordered it as well!!

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Well, this looked like a wonder of the modern age, which makes it even more of a shame that netgalley were only dispensing the first third of this wonderful non-fiction read. I'm guessing only a writer with an eye for the esoteric could cover the stories of ancient contact between Earth and Mars, considering as it does signals boosted from here to there by a high-flying hot air balloon, and flashes of mirrored light, Morse Code, numbers, a face, oh and a stone carving allegedly looking like Geoffrey Chaucer of all people coming back the other way. This bright and breezy book only suffers when it gives itself too many pictorial pages and box-outs, but on the whole is eminently readable, and right up my street with its depth and lightness, its scientific eye yet its enjoyment of the trivial. On the evidence of the chapters concerning our thoughts about Martian canals and civilisations, and our limited rover research up there (including the signs of life NASA found but never spoke about), this is an essential look at all things Red Planet-related. Unseen chapters bringing Tim Burton, chocolate bars and Elon Musk into the picture can only add to the fun.

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"The Big Book of Mars" is a lot of fun. Marc Hartzman's use of humour makes for a quick read and prevents the book from becoming dry. The photos are a joy. This is the perfect coffee table book.

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an advance copy to review. This review is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.

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I actually enjoyed this as I looked though it. The pictures are stunning. The most enjoyable part is that the book is not written in a kids book style. The writing level used is quite high, in fact I might go as far as to say high school level. I must give my highest regards to the author. Bravo.

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read a preview copy.

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