Cover Image: The Red Planet

The Red Planet

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Member Reviews

A readable and comprehensive book addressing this subject. Only wish it were more detailed and included maps and illustrations. Still, the best of its kind thus far.

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“For our own selfish reasons, we crave the idea of a second Earth – and to have one so close and yet so far is tantalising – but we know that Mars was never that. It was never ours. It is its own and we have to accept it for what it is.”

I’ve been obsessed with Mars for a while now. It may have been Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy that made me initially interested and carved the names of Martian landscapes - Valles Marinaris, Tharsis Bulge, Mons Olympus - into my memory. (Not to mention the deep horror of painstakingly assembling a 1000-piece Mars puzzle to discover that I only have 999 pieces and the last puzzle piece had been irretrievably lost). And for years now I’ve been treasuring any knowledge morsels about the Red Planet.

Simon Morden’s Red Planet: A Natural History of Mars is a book that makes me happily state that “Geology Rocks”. After all, on a frozen arid planet it’s geology that we can see and not much else. Rocks of Mars hold some tantalizing answers to some of Martian secrets, and Morden succeeds in making that story fascinatingly interesting while still staying scientifically informative.

“Such is Mars. We acknowledge its mysteries and move on.”

It’s a biography of Mars. How it formed, going back to what we understand about the formation of the Solar system. How it then melted. The Great Dichotomy with two main theories about what could have happened (Morden from the get-go tells us that there’s no way to know which theory is correct, and whether any of them is what actually happened - all those billions of years are an awfully long time ago), the Tharsis Bulge with its enormous volcanoes, the polar ice caps — it’s all there.

“Olympus Mons rises 21 kilometres above datum, and because it sits on a below-datum plain to the west of the Tharsis Rise, we can add another kilometre to its actual height. East to west, it’s 640 kilometres across. North to south, it measures 840 kilometres. As we’ll discover, it used to be even larger.”

(The size of that 21 km high volcano, by the way, is close to that of Italy, France, or the state of Arizona. Everest who??? Puh-lease.)

Morden made geology (is it still called GEOlogy when it’s on Mars, by the way? Is it areology?) interesting to me, and I normally would only pay attention to rocks if I trip over one. He explains his points clearly and simply, without veering into overly jargony territory. And yeah, I realized that without magnetic field there’s no use for a compass on Mars, so I’d be hopelessly lost there. Maybe Mars is better as a dream rather than a destination?

4.5 stars. I genuinely enjoyed it, in my very nerdy way.

Thanks to NetGalley and Elliott & Thompson for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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As someone with a bit of a fascination about Mars this book seemed perfect for me even though I don’t really read this type of thing. Well written and well researched it was an interesting read.

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Mars has long held a fascination for me. This book is really well researched and informative and the author is really passionate about the subject matter. Recommend to anyone with an interest in space.

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I've read many books about Mars, so I expected to learn little from this book.

I was so wrong!

This was a tour guidebook revealing many facts about the red planet. For instance:

Many know that Mars has the Solar System's biggest volcano.
But I didn't know that Olympus Mons is NOT the tallest mountain in the Solar System.
It's the second tallest.

Mars's Hellas is the solar system's largest single extant crater. 2300 km across by 9 km deep.

Mars has the biggest canyon we know of. Valles Marineris is 2000 km east-west, 200 km wide, and 10 km deep.

Mars's Great Dichotomy explains it's uneven.
The south is 2 km higher than the north.

Can methane appear on Mars without volcanic activity?

It has 28 large volcanoes.
Thin lava made flat volcanos with 4-degree slopes, so if you stood on a Martian volcano, you probably wouldn't realize it.

Perchlorates are chlorine-rich compounds that are lethal at Mars-level doses.
Solar flares increase the solar radiation 200 times because Mars lacks a magnetic field & its atmosphere is too thin.

Inhaling the dust is a killer: it produces silicosis.

This book is readable and fast-paced.


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A detailed and informative natural history. Perfect for fans of Cosmos or those Discovery Channel shows that break down the formation of the solar system, though perhaps information better presented in that medium - some visual aids and artists' renderings would be helpful in explaining the techniques and landscapes described, as well as fully expressing the awesome processes involved in Mars's planetary evolution.

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Science Fiction author Simon Morden takes the reader as close to Mars as they’re likely to get, in this beautiful, illuminating read about the red planet. Take a science fiction writers skill for exploring new and unknown worlds, and combine that with true scientific skill- and you have The Red Planet. Utterly gorgeous

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A fascinating, well researched, and informative book about the story of Mars. It's a science book and I liked how the author was able to talk about the topic without being dry or too technical.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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A fun, detailed, vivid history of the Red Dot that's been so present in our thoughts for so long. As someone who's always dreamed of stepping out onto a new world, it was disheartening to learn how significant the obstacles to human colonization are, but the image Morden paints is a rich and vibrant one, and at the end I felt as if I went there and back.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the geological history of Mars, as it struck a good balance between readability and heady scientific content.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the digital advance copy.

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A fascinating look at our neighbor, this is a historical record of Mars, as well as a detailed look at its geography. So many things are impossible to know for sure, but the author makes educated guesses. Simon Morden is a science-fiction writer, so his non-fiction book is very approachable and reads almost like a novel. Some parts are so lovingly described in detail that you can picture yourself there. There is also some hard science that went a little over my head, but in general this book is easy to follow and very engrossing.
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#Elliott & Thompson!

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Simon Morden has convinced me that I do not want to colonize Mars. Someone else can take my ticket, thank you.

The Red Planet is a biography of sorts for Mars. It traces its beginning from the literal creation of everything to the present day. We find out why its looks the way it does, what it was like at various stages of development, and what we might need to anticipate as we continue to explore Mars.

I was skeptical about how much I would enjoy this book. I am much more of a narrative history buff but Morden converted me. He keeps the flow light, puts the reader in some specific scientific situations on a theoretical Mars mission, and never takes himself seriously. If you don't like science at all, maybe this book isn't for you. But if you have even the smallest curiosity about other worlds then this book is a great introduction to the science of Mars.

Final disclaimer: yes, there were times I had no idea what Morden was talking about. But hey, there was very little math so yay!

(This book was provided to me as an advance read copy by Netgalley and Elliott & Thompson books. The full review will be posted to on 11/15/2022.)

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This was a fantastic read. I could of done with this book 18 years ago when I was writing my dissertation on water on Mars. It certainly explains everything you ever want to know about Mars. The author writes with passion and explains everything so well. I loved the flow of the book and ease in with I took in all the information. For the 5th star I would of loved to see some pictures to break up the text. It would of given it that extra dimension. The text was so informative that its probably the most comprehensive book I have read so far about Mars. I really couldn't put this book down and I read it in one day.

I really can't recommend this book enough. If you have any interest in Mars then I know you will love it to. Its definitely a must read book.

So much praise goes out to the author and publishers for bringing us this fantastic book that I became easily engrossed in and learnt so much from. I will definitely be looking out for more books by this amazing author.

The above review has already been placed on goodreads, waterstones, Google books, Barnes&noble, kobo, amazon UK where found and my blog today either under my name or ladyreading365 retail review links are on my blog

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This is a fascinating and detailed look into the geological history of Mars. It doesn't provide all the answers, but where there are competing theories, it presents the most likely ones. It's interesting to learn how the different size and composition of Mars compared to Earth affected its development. It's also tantalizing to learn how much water ice occurs near the surface, and how that could affect the possibility of human colonization of the planet.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.

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