01 August 2019 Reviews

Planetary Echoes: exploring the implications of human settlement in outer space

This collection of essays explores, as the subtitle reveals, “the implications of human settlement in outer space”, which – as the content confirms - are far-reaching and fundamental. Within these pages, we hear from such luminaries as Buzz Aldrin, Richard Branson and Norman Foster, which if nothing else provides a breadth of opinion not found in the average space book.

Some of the contributors are professional writers, others are professional astronauts; all have something interesting to say, though at times one feels there is little to learn from their words. For example, Branson’s contribution (which is probably ghost-written anyway) comes across as an advert for Virgin Galactic, while Andy Weir’s piece is simply a one-page quote from his book ‘The Martian’ (the page that begins with the F-words!).

This paperback-sized volume is illustrated in monochrome and colour with a mixture of photographs, artworks and cartoons. This adds general interest, but the relatively poor reproduction quality reduces the effect. For what is clearly an ‘art book’, one feels the material - and the readership - would be better served by enhancing the production values and republishing as a coffee table book. This would, of course, increase the cover price, but an improved artistic presentation and the added kudos of the well-known contributors could make this a desirable, as opposed to easily overlooked, book.

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