Ossus Library Index Non-Fiction Index


By Martin Caidin, Jay Barbree, and Susan Wright (1997, Penguin Studio)

A summary description of Mars through the ages, as portrayed in art, myth and science.



1 star

Read May 20th to June 6th, 2000  
    This sort of book would normally take me a month to read, because I savor the pictures and the text.  I try not to read them too fast.  Unfortunately, I wanted nothing better than to finish this book.  It was so casual and American-centered that I found myself getting angry -at a book! 

The author obviously wanted to deal with Mars through the ages.  He starts at the dawn of time, moving quickly through the Babylonian, Greek and Roman times.  The beliefs that they had regarding Mars may be well established, but he brings up a lot of things that I just cannot believe. 

When he goes on to the middle ages and the Renaissance, he focuses on Christianity, which was the most stagnant of all religious groups when it came to astronomy.  I was really upset until he finally brought up a couple of paragraphs about the Muslims, who named so many of the stars in our sky. 

The science starts to pick up in the Renaissance, but the author only brings up the famous scientists.  And barely any of it deals with Mars.  Fictional accounts arise here, also.  There must not have been many fictional accounts of Mars, except in mythology, so the scarcity of the references can be forgiven.  But when he moves into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the stories and novels that he references are randomly chosen.  He mentions several stories, and leaves out many big names. 

Finally, when dealing with movies, he is contradictory in the least.  He casually glances over many big movies, both good and bad, and then takes up a whole page describing how unrealistic the movie Total Recall was. 

In short, his opinions show through in way too much of the text.  What he likes, the readers are expected to like.  What he dislikes we cannot enjoy, either.  It seems that he loved War of the Worlds.  While the book and especially the radio drama, were very influential, the movie was not very good.  But at least I realize that this is my opinion.

The science part of the book is not bad.  Some of it is dead wrong, and there are many spelling errors.  Worse, on a picture of Carl Sagan and another fellow, he mislabels Sagan.

He describes the Mariner and Viking missions, and I am very impressed that he mentioned all the missions that the Russians flew (but I wonder if he would have done so if they hadn't all been failures).  But he just glosses over them. 

He spends way too much time on the "Cydonia face", and describing the Mars cults that may or may not exist.  I think what prompted this book was the possible discovery of life on the Martian meteorite.  At least it was mentioned. 

This book is best classified under Pop Culture.  No recommendation at all can come after reading it.  Under the failure scale, this one is dismal.  The only thing that I liked about it was that many of the pictures were really nice, and some of them I hadn't seen before. 

For a high-resolution image of the Cydonia region, including the "face", click here.


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