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The Sirens of Mars Reviews

The Sirens of Mars by Sarah Stewart Johnson

The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World

Sarah Stewart Johnson

Score pending

2 reviews

Category: Non-fiction
Imprint: Allen Lane
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 16 Jul 2020
ISBN: 9780241216002

As a new wave of interplanetary exploration launches in summer 2020, a talented young planetary scientist charts our centuries-old obsession with Mars. 'This elegantly crafted book conveys what it's like to be a young scientist involved in the quest' Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal Mars - bewilderingly empty, coated in red dust - is an unlikely place to pin our hopes of finding life elsewhere.

5 stars out of 5

"if any book can make you want to go to Mars, this is it"

Or the first photo from the world’s first digital camera (a shot of Mars taken from space in 1965), which was actually a painting: a bright spark at Nasa realised that it would take longer for their primitive computer to convert the data arriving from space back into an image than it would take him to read that data and paint it by hand, one pixel at a time.

And yet it’s Johnson’s own story that touched me most. Humanity might be alone, but she no longer is: late in the book she falls in love, marries, starts a family. She learns to live with one foot on Earth, a planet that still holds a few mysteries of its own.


4 stars out of 5
27 Jun 2020

"(a) beguiling first book"

This, Sarah Stewart Johnson, an assistant professor of planetary science at Georgetown University in the US, argues in her beguiling first book is precisely why the search for life on other planets matters. It is not just that finding so much as a dormant speck of protein in this planetary tomb would be a peerless scientific wonder. It is that if life can emerge and survive on Mars — “the smallest breath in the deepest night”, as Johnson writes — it can do so in a trillion other places. It raises the likelihood of a universe positively frothing with biology. It would mean we are not alone.