cover image THE STORY OF LIGHT


Ben Bova, . . SourceBooks, $24.95 (356pp) ISBN 978-1-57071-785-7

Prolific SF and nonfiction writer (Venus, etc.) and former editor of Omni and Analog, Bova once rhapsodized about The Beauty of Light (an ALA Best Science Book of 1988). He now offers this secondary source–based introduction to light's influence on aspects of human experience, "from our religions to our sex drives." Those looking for inspired, penetrating insights will be disappointed: "Great artists, even those who came long before our modern understanding of human vision, used their own eyes and minds, their own observations of the world around them and of human behavior, to produce works of immortal beauty." The lack of illustrations is also a serious drawback. But with a 25,000-copy initial printing, an eight-city author tour and 1,500 galleys in circulation, this book should reach Bova's core SF fans, who may pick this one up for themselves or for their older children. Endogenous pacemakers (the light-sensitive "clock inside your brain"), the birth of the sun, lasers, astrology (it "was, is, and always will be entirely rubbish") and the camera obscura all make appearances, and Bova draws on examples from all corners, from medieval optics author Alhazen to Daguerre, James Clerk Maxwell and Einstein. While sheathed in filler, Bova's illustrative thought experiments hit the mark, and his breezy affability is evident throughout, making this a decent primer. (Sept.)