Skip to main content

Spacecam – Terry Hope ****

I love a good book of space pictures, but it’s a difficult balance. For a book to be readable it can’t be too big – yet you want the pictures to be as large as possible. Spacecam comes in at the bottom end of the compromise. It’s about the size of a trade paperback, but in landscape format, which helps with the pictures. I’d really like it to be a little bigger to get the full glory of these images, but it’s big enough that the shots can be quite stunning, while at the same time it is a manageable size.
Having said that it is surprisingly heavy as it packs in 256 glossy pages – a lot for a book like this. After a couple of pages of introduction, this is a picture book with captions, rather than a flowing text, which I don’t generally like, but the quality of the images and quite informative captions (packing a lot in at the price of pretty small text) make the best of the format.
There’s a good mix here. Lovely colour shots from the Apollo missions, excellent Hubble space shots, a good range of photos from planetary missions and a wide range of satellite shots of the Earth – because we shouldn’t forget that arguably the great successes of the space missions have been those that look back on our planet.
It’s always a difficult choice when doing this kind of book to decide on the design of the pages. I personally find the black backgrounds of many space photography books, including this one, a little oppressive – I prefer the crisp contrast of a light coloured page – but it’s bearable.
Whether we’re looking at collapsing ice-sheets, the scarily Lord of the Rings-like Cat’s Eye nebula or an Apollo astronaut collecting lunar samples, there’s a lot to enjoy here. I think inevitably this may work best as a dip-in book, the sort of thing you might keep in the loo, but having said that, I found it intriguing enough to go through it beginning to end on a train journey. All in all, a very good attempt at what is inevitably a difficult type of book to pull off.
Also in hardback:  
Review by Brian Clegg


Popular posts from this blog

The Feed (SF) - Nick Clark Windo ****

Ever since The War of the Worlds, the post-apocalyptic disaster novel has been a firm fixture in the Science Fiction universe. What's more, such books are often among the few SF titles that are shown any interest by the literati, probably because many future disaster novels feature very little science. With a few exceptions, though (I'm thinking, for instance, The Chrysalids) they can make for pretty miserable reading unless you enjoy a diet of page after page of literary agonising.

The Feed is a real mixture. Large chunks of it are exactly that - page after page of self-examining misery with an occasional bit of action thrown in. But, there are parts where the writing really comes alive and shows its quality. This happens when we get the references back to pre-disaster, when we discover the Feed, which takes The Circle's premise to a whole new level with a mega-connected society where all human interaction is through directly-wired connections… until the whole thing fails …

Everything You Know About Space Is Wrong - Matt Brown ****

What we have here is a feast of assertions some people make about space that are satisfyingly incorrect, with pithy, entertaining explanations of what the true picture is. Matt Brown admits in his introduction that a lot of these incorrect facts are nitpicking - more on that in a moment - but it doesn't stop them being delightful. I particularly enjoyed the ones about animals in space and about the Moon.

Along the way, we take in space exploration, the Earth's place in space, the Moon, the solar system, the universe and a collection of random oddities, such as the fact that Mozart didn't write Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Sometimes the wrongness comes from a frequent misunderstanding. So, for example, Brown corrects the idea that Copernicus was the first to say that the Earth moves around the Sun. Sometimes there's some very careful wording. This is used when Brown challenges the idea that the Russian dog Laika was the first animal in space. What we discover is that, i…

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs - Lisa Randall ****

I did my PhD in galactic dynamics - which is an awkward subject when people want to know what its relevance to the 'real world' is. So I was excited when Clube and Napier's book The Cosmic Serpent came out, around the same time, because it provided me with a ready-made answer. It argued that the comets which occasionally crash into Earth with disastrous results - such as the extinction of the dinosaurs - are perturbed from their normal orbits by interactions with the large-scale structure of the galaxy.

I was reminded of this idea a few years ago when there was a flurry of media interest in Lisa Randall's "dark matter and the dinosaurs" conjecture. I was sufficiently enthusiastic about it to write an article on the subject for Fortean Times - though my enthusiasm didn't quite extend to purchasing her hardback book at the time. However, now that it's out in paperback I've remedied the situation - and I'm glad I did.

Dark matter is believed to exi…