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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Review: A Traveler's Guide to Mars

A Traveler’s Guide to Mars, 1st Edition 2003
By William K. Hartmann
Workman Publishing, New York, NY
ISBN: 0761126066

First, it must be said that this book is loaded with information on Mars. With both classic and MSG topographical style maps of Mars, turn of the century drawings from the eyepiece, and photos from every probe sent to Mars, it definitely has the wow factor covered.

A warning, though, Dr. Hartmann is a planetary scientist and writes like one. IF you are not familiar with the study of geology, keep a dictionary handy. However, if willing to put in the effort, you will discover not only the facts we know about Mar but how we came to know those facts.

The thing that sets apart A Traveler’s Guide to Mars from a Mars Textbook is that humanity of it. Dr. Hartmann was there at almost every stage of modern Mars exploration. In side sections called “My Martian Chronicles” he gives the reader an insider’s look at the history, politics, passions, and debates within the scientific community during Mariner 9 to the Mars Global Surveyor.

All this humanity does not detract from the sheer volume of information on the red planet, though. The geologic history is here in great detail. Dr. Hartmann goes though all the major features or Mars, one at a time, all the while tying in into the history of Mars study. The flow of the book works really well, once you get into.

However, I do have some criticism. The flow of the book is not obvious until you get a few chapters into it, so I was floundering somewhat at the beginning. I fear that a casual reader, without the passion for Mars that I have, might give up and miss out on the wealth of information in this book.

Also, as I touched on above, I struggled with the terminology (I had to ask my wife, who is a geology hobbyist, about more than a few words). Keep a dictionary or a geology textbook handy and you should be fine.

Overall, this is a very good book and I would highly recommend it. It is the single most comprehensive study of Mars I have every read.

4 stars (out of 5)

1 comment:

tdr said...

And you can buy an autographed copy of the book from the San Diego Mars Society at