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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.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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