Fiction Reviews


Futures - 50 Years in Space: The Challenge of the Stars

(2004) David Hardy and Patrick Moore, Artists' and Photographers' Press Limited, 17.95, hdbk, pp112, ISBN 1-904-33213-7

I have often thought that it would be good to compare astronomical and future science art of yester-year with that of today: both being science fictional but one based on greater scientific understanding that the other. Apparently someone did just this at the 2nd International Week, teatime May 23rd, but I must have been asleep. Lucky old me for Moore and Hardy have undertaken a similar exercise with their Futures - 50 Years in Space.

This is a superbly produced book, packed with high quality, artistic renditions of a variety of astronomical phenomena throughout our solar system and beyond. This book is completely revised version of the authors' 1972 book The Challenge of the Stars. Of course over the time, as with all science, our astronomical understanding has developed markedly and so considerable updating was required. Brilliantly the authors do not simply amend the text but actively point out the changes so giving us a handle on the ground astronomy has covered in between time. I especially enjoyed the Mars surface picture half with a star studded sky and half with a red atmospheric sky: the before and after Viking Lander versions. Hardy's artwork stands with the best of British science illustrators such as the likes of Julian Baum and is literally stunning. Moore's text is concise, easy-to-read and factual. The combination of text and illustration is a truly illuminating blend.

Obviously this book will delight astronomers, both amateur and professional alike. With its space craft, portrayals of human missions on Mars, views of other solar systems, space stations and even an LGM handing back Sir Patrick a sputnik style satellite, this will pleasure hard SF fans too. Those with a sense of history in these areas will find it particularly enjoyable, especially given the knowledge that Patrick banged out the text's first draft on his typewriter. Fantastic.

Problems with this book. Well with just 112 pages, it is simply too short: 1,120 pages would have been more welcome. I would also have liked to known a little more about the pictures. For example was the one of an ice cave on Pluto inspired by a real Antarctica photo? However one can't have everything and Futures - 50 Years in Space is truly excellent value. Now I know that it is probably a little off-putting bringing up Christmas, especially so soon at this time of the year (I hope you are not reading this in December's 4th week)... but if your loved one has a passion for space, astronomy or hard SF then now is the time to order them that little something special.

Jonathan Cowie


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