How to Die in Space: A Journey Through Dangerous Astrophysical Phenomena

Paul M. Sutter. Pegasus, $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-64313-438-3

“You’re not going to make it in space... space is nasty,” writes SUNY Stonybrook research professor Sutter (Your Place in the Universe) in the prologue to his wildly entertaining survey of the many materials, objects, and phenomena that can kill anyone who leaves Earth’s comparatively safe confines. Those hoping to find a new home on other planets won’t find much solace either, due to the sulfuric acid rain on Venus and the dense atmosphere of Jupiter, to name two perils. As for space travel, Sutter identifies asteroids, the magnetic fields of the sun (not to mention the heat), and exploding stars as just a few of the obstacles awaiting would-be explorers. Among the few things readers won’t be left worrying about are hostile aliens, since there’s no proof that extraterrestrial life, friendly or otherwise, exists. Sutter’s tone is suffused with enthusiasm for his topic and with disarming humor (the black hole chapter opens with “Admit it, you skipped right here without reading any of the previous chapters”). Funny and informative, Sutter’s gleefully bleak interstellar survey will foster a greater appreciation for humanity’s home, and a deeper understanding of space. Agent: Lane Heymont, Tobias Agency. (June)