As a child, I was always fascinated by maps, and fascinated by astronomy. In many ways, this book combines those fascinations in one truly remarkable text. Every page is a full-colour plate, showing satellite-produced images of the entire world in multiple respects.
The organisation of the book is basic, as any other atlas; the major sections include the World, North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia/New Zealand, and Antarctica. In addition to these major sections, there are shorter pieces on satellites (both history of satellites and how satellites work), the future, and credits/index sections.
This is no simple book of maps. There are typical geopolitical maps, to be sure, as apart from the basic outlines, it is sometimes hard to tell what is being shown in the photographs. However, pride of place certainly belongs to the photographs, from both the visible light spectrum and non-visible (ultra-high and -low) spectrums. These show geological topography, physical features, vegetation, climate, oceans, population, constructed/built-up features, and more.
With regard to the oceans, there are different types of satellite images which show temperature variations, depth, underwater vegetation, geological fault lines, and even pollution. There is a fascinating section showing the seasonal variations of ocean temperature and motion due to El Nino effects.
Similarly, with population and developed areas, it is mesmerising to see the differences and similarities across the various continents. Cities look very much the same in many respects from space in the distant view; the dominant characteristics at ranges that cover tens of miles is often the contours and geological/natural formations that surround a city. However, when close-up ranges are shown, the human constructions become apparent, and the cities show their unique characters based on the population in connection with their environments. One particularly fun photograph is a composition photograph showing the lights at night around the world. This particular map shows dense population around cities, particularly coastal cities; however, this can be deceptive, as the more highly populated country of India puts out less light at night than the lesser populated but more technologically advanced North America and Europe.
This is a wonderful way to look at the world, to see the kinds of things that a traditional map with boundaries and countries would not show. Done with the quality photography and explanation that is the hallmark of National Geographic, this large-format book would look at home equally on the shelf of a student of any age as well as the coffee table of a well-appointed home.