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The Sirens Of Mars: Searching For Life On Another World by Sarah Stewart Johnson (book review).

August 22, 2020 | By | Reply More

Sarah Stewart Johnson is a planetary scientist, looking at life in unusual conditions and how it survives, all in preparation for the latest Martian landings in a few months. She gives an insight into her job and her grandfather and father. Interspersed with this, is the history of our study of Mars where it was thought to have life and proven not by the Mariner 2. The only thing she misses out on is what Percival Lowell saw through his telescope was a reflection of his retina, although it does finally get a mention in the final chapter.

However, in recent years, the discovery of water on Mars has stirred up more interest as to whether any form of nascent life has survived there. Man has a fascination to finding life elsewhere to show Earth is not a rarity. If it can exist in the extreme of the red planet then it increases the odds for life elsewhere in the galaxy.

It’s rather interesting as Johnson goes over the pioneers in looking for life on Mars, principally Carl Sagan, Wolf Vishniac and David McKay, all of whom had to endure being knocked by the establishment as they explored the possibilities of life developing in unusual environments to sustain a belief in life on Mars. How things have changed today but then there is so much more information about the red planet now and a better idea where to look.

Knowledge empowers but, even in the past century, it’s still amazing how the ‘establishment’ refused to explore such things. Then again, we are the generation of Science Fiction, Johnson even mentions life-size cut-outs of Spock at the Goddard Space Centre.

Rather interestingly, there was only one female exo-biologist, Maria Zuber, who ultimately mentored Johnson after she lectured about life on Mars. Johnson then centres on her own life with an extended visit to the Jet Propulsion Lab and landers to Mars and getting some terrestrial extreme research done. In some respects, if you’re a young lady looking for inspiration for jobs where there are predominately male-orientation, you might find it from this book.

In many respects, blending the author’s autobiography with finding life on Mars shouldn’t work as its really diverse subjects, merging occasionally but sometimes further apart. However, Johnson does write well and draws you in. In many respects, the strength of this book is showing married women with children can have careers in the space industry and hopefully it will inspire more of you ladies to think of this for a career. Learning more about the possibilities of looking for life on Mars will prepare you for the main event next year.

GF Willmetts

August 2020

(pub: Allen Lane/Penguin, 2020. 266 page indexed hardback. Price: £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-241-2160-2)

check out website: www.greenpenguin.co.uk

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Category: Books, Science

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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