The View From Missive Control
by Dan Perlman, Editor
Pale Blue Dot:
A Vision of The Human Future in Space
By Carl Sagan
429 pages, $35.00
The “Pale Blue Dot”, of course, is our own planet Earth. Viewed, as the text points out, by Voyager 2 from beyond the orbit of Neptune. Actually Mr. Sagan repeats this theme in various guises throughout the book. I suppose without us each having the opportunity to head into space and look back for the visceral effect, he hoped to drive home the point through repetition. We’re a really small planet in the back end of nowhere. Oh, and we’re pale blue.
This, however, may be the only true negative of the entire book. The text is easy to read and will probably be fascinating for any reasonably intelligent human interested in space exploration. It focuses primarily on the Voyager missions, but doesn’t neglect other forays throughout our solar system. This may be the best “lay” book on the outer planets to have yet been published.
Neatly arranged, he starts us from the early days of civilization and the wonder of the stars. After making sure a couple of times that we’re clear on our place in the scheme of things, he moves us through the basics of space exploration and the detection of life, sentient and otherwise. Then Mr. Sagan leads us on a breathtaking tour of Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, their associated moons, the asteroids, swoops back in for a detailed look at Venus and Mars, explores the possibilities of terraforming, colonization, mining, asteroid deflection, and a few dozen other things. Then he winds up with a philosophical look at our future in space, reminds us once again that we’re on a a pale blue dot in the middle of the backwoods, and refers us on to other books to read.
Most impressive, however, is the illustration work. Mr. Sagan has collected together some of the most beautiful photos and paintings of our neighboring planets and galaxies to have ever been put in one public place. At least that didn’t require driving or flying somewhere and paying an admission charge. If for nothing else, this book is worth the cover price on the basis of the sheer pleasure of flipping through the pages. This is a book no noe should be embarrassed to say, “I just look at the pictures.”
The book is printed on glossy stock, so it’s hefty to hold. But somehow, this gave me a feeling that I was reading something solid and worthwhile. Not to mention the added class it gave to the artwork. One may or may not agree with Carl Sagan’s opinions, arguments and conclusions, but he does a damned fine job of presenting them.