Imagining Mars: A Literary History

Robert Crossley, Author
Robert Crossley, Wesleyan Univ., $40 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8195-6927-1
Reviewed on: 02/07/2011
Release date: 01/01/2011
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-283-10974-1
Ebook - 396 pages - 978-0-8195-7105-2
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"The difference between a planet and a world is imagination," says Crossley (Olaf Stapledon: Speaking for the Future) in this entertaining new work. The 1877 discovery of Mars' moons and surface lines sparked a century of fascination that inspired scientific discovery and literature, despite the 1941 determination that the planet had too little oxygen or water for life. Crossley is equally comfortable discussing the scientific efforts of Percival Lowell and the stories of H.G. Wells, Robert Heinlein, Kim Stanley Robinson, and other sci-fi scribes. Crossley reviews Mars in history and literature, from "a dying world that served as a grim and cautionary text" to "the canvas on which writers could depict their wildest fantasies, their darkest fears" to "a laboratory and a playground of the mind." He draws substantial excerpts from texts to illustrate his thesis and chronologically explores the literature about Mars alongside the history of discovery, from those first "canali" to the "Bush agenda for a grand mission to Mars by 2020." Scholarly but accessible, with a generous number of illustrations and photographs, Imagining Mars is a fun and interesting read for sci-fi fans and armchair astronomers. (Jan.)
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