I’m an optimist: I believe Man will wake up to Global Warming before we turn our planet into Venus, that there are some honest politicians, and that proofreading will return to the forefront of book publishing.
Alas, today is not that day. Allison’s book so badly needed a proofreader that a fifth-grade teacher, armed with a red pen, would have run out of ink before getting out of the first couple chapters. I think good writing should not only be engaging, but should be free from obvious grammar and spelling errors—it makes it easier to read for the inexperienced reader, and considerably less distracting for the experienced reader.
Allison’s book has so many errors in grammar, including punctuation and tense, that the book is quite distracting to read.
I admire the intent, though, and I would have grudgingly given a nod to the book were it not for the Fatal Flaw that seems to inhabit so many astronomy-oriented books these days: the inclusion of basic information unnecessary to the text or content of the book.
On point: does a book about the structure, history, and observing of star clusters really need basic information about finders, telescope types, Barlows, diagonals, and filters? If you think it does, because the book might be read by a novice stargazer who is not so familiar with the basics of observing, then why include information on cluster classification systems, stellar spectra, and hard-to-observe faint clusters that are test objects for large dobs? Does the reader who understands the science of stars and their classifications, or to whom the difficult clusters would be interesting challenges, really need a primer on finders and Barlows?
I think not. Perhaps the author didn’t either, but was asked to include this information by the publisher. Whichever is the case, it’s there, but it surely didn’t need to be.
Lastly, there is the “meat” of the book; its catalogue of 109 star clusters, replete with finder charts, photographs, basic data, and observation reports. This is the part of the book that might have, despite the other problems aforementioned, redeemed the book in the eyes of this 43 year veteran of star cluster observing.
It was not to be. I could not believe some of the sky’s most spectacular clusters, such as NGC 7789 in Cassiopeia, were left out, while truly difficult (and somewhat mundane) clusters, such as G1 in the Andromeda Galaxy, were included. If the intent is to inspire people to look at star clusters of all types and sizes, with all levels of difficulty, then a more comprehensive approach is necessary. If you compare this to “Star Clusters” by Archinal and Hynes (pub.Willmann-Bell), or “The Night-Sky Observer’s Guide” by Kepple and Sanner (pub.Willmann-Bell), or “Observing Handbook and Catalogue of Deep-Sky Objects” by Luginbuhl and Skiff (pub.Cambridge Univ.Press), the truly poor nature of this book’s contents becomes glaringly apparent.
I do not recommend this book without a major rewriting and the inclusion of a lot more star clusters. Save your money and get one of the books mentioned—your interest will be far better served.
Don Pensack, Los Angeles, May, 2006.