Throughout July, GeekMom is preparing for the planned launch of the Perseverance rover on July 20th with Mars Month, a month filled with Mars-themed content. Be sure to follow the Mars Month tag to find all of this month’s content so far in one place. Today I am reviewing The Search for Life on Mars by Elizabeth Howell and Nicholas Booth.
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The Search for Life on Mars is an in-depth and detailed overview of humanity’s quest to discover conclusive evidence of life on the Red Planet. Divided into eleven chapters, the book—written by two journalists with a long history of covering space exploration—digs deep into every Mars mission so far, with plenty of information included about the soon-to-launch Perseverance and ExoMars rovers as well.
This was by far the most wide-reaching and detailed of all the books I read this month. Every experiment on all the Mars missions so far is explained in detail, often by the scientists who designed and ran them. Results are discussed and controversies explored. The Search for Life on Mars was compiled from notes taken by the authors over more than 20 years and includes quotations from interviews with dozens of scientists, engineers, and others who have worked to uncover the secrets of Mars, many of whom have now passed away. I learned more about the science behind Mars exploration here than I have anywhere else and was inspired to learn more about the complications that make answering the question “Is there life on Mars?” far more difficult than it would seem.
Unfortunately, while the content was great, the composition simply wasn’t. This is a book that desperately needed an editor brandishing a red pen. The whole book rambled on from one subject to another with no cohesive narrative holding it together. Subjects were repeated, the same topics explained again and again from chapter to chapter, and the timeline was infinitely muddled. While other books I have read about Mars this month have flowed with beautiful prose and personal insight, The Search for Life on Mars feels little removed from the collection of notes it originally spawned from. It was the only book this month that I have genuinely struggled to finish, not because I wasn’t interested in the subject, but because the writing made it a slog to push through.
This is a difficult book that could have used numerous harsh edits and rewrites. For those with a passion and a keen interest in the details beyond the press releases and pretty pictures, The Search for Life on Mars is worth pushing through. However, this is not a book I would recommend to someone with only a casual, fleeting interest in Mars, as they will probably want to give up on by the end of the first chapter.
GeekMom received a copy of this item for review purposes.