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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journey through the solar system
This charming guide to the solar system explains the planets in everyday language while drawing on history, myth, science fiction, art, literature and the latest scientific advances. It discusses the ongoing discoveries in our planetary system, dealing with every body from the sun to Pluto. The writing style is accessible and highly engaging.

The chapter...
Published on 20 Feb 2007 by Pieter Uys

versus
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Confused and Self Serving
If you have enjoyed any of the other Dava Sobel books, please avoid this. It is devoid of all the features that have made the other books so successful; personality, human triumph over aversity and scientific discovery. This is a mish-mash of science, psuedo-science and romantic nonsense in a disconnected series of chapters, none of which deliver the same type of story...
Published on 27 Sep 2010 by Martin Ohara


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journey through the solar system, 20 Feb 2007
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Planets (Paperback)
This charming guide to the solar system explains the planets in everyday language while drawing on history, myth, science fiction, art, literature and the latest scientific advances. It discusses the ongoing discoveries in our planetary system, dealing with every body from the sun to Pluto. The writing style is accessible and highly engaging.

The chapter Genesis deals with the sun and the formation of the solar system, Mythology is devoted to Mercury and astronomers like Tycho Brahe, Copernicus and Kepler, and Beauty is reserved for Venus, where the poetry of amongst others, Blake, Wordsworth, Oliver Wendell Holmes and CS Lewis is quoted. Earth gets its turn in Geography (On Becoming a Planet), and the Moon in the chapter Lunacy.

Jupiter and the Galileo spacecraft are investigated in Astrology, whilst Music Of The Spheres is about Saturn and the music of the planets as represented by Holst in his Opus 32 and Kepler's book Harmonice Mundi in which he interpreted their motions as music. Uranus and Neptune are discussed in the chapter Discovery, and Pluto in UFO where the controversy on whether Pluto really is a planet is explored.

The concluding chapter Planeteers discusses the Cassini spacecraft and the Huygens probe which landed on Saturn's moon Titan in January 2005. The author concludes with the observation that the planets have always been stalwarts of human culture and the inspiration for much of mankind's higher-minded endeavor. The book concludes with a glossary, notes by chapter and a bibliography. There are black and white illustrations, photographs and maps throughout the text.

The PS section at the end contains an interview with the author by Travis Elborough, Sobel's favorite books and writers, Other books by Sobel and books she recommends, and an essay about the New Horizons spacecraft launched on 19th January 2006 on its 10 year journey to Pluto.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Confused and Self Serving, 27 Sep 2010
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This review is from: The Planets (Hardcover)
If you have enjoyed any of the other Dava Sobel books, please avoid this. It is devoid of all the features that have made the other books so successful; personality, human triumph over aversity and scientific discovery. This is a mish-mash of science, psuedo-science and romantic nonsense in a disconnected series of chapters, none of which deliver the same type of story about their respective planet. Exceptionally dissapointing, it is difficult to know how such an accomplished author fell to these depths, it's almost as if this is a rushed text to meet some publishing deadline, hence cobbled together from half finished notes and musings. There are some good bits, but they are so difficult to find as to not be worth looking. There are some significantly better books available on the same topic, save your money for them.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Affectionate look at our neighbours, 16 Nov 2006
By 
L. Hogan (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Planets (Paperback)
This is a lovely book. Rather than being a hard core, scientific tome, it is an affectionate and slightly quirky look at our neighbours. Sobel uses a number of literary devices to give us an overview of the history of the solar system. I think reviewers who complain about the chapter that mentions astrology are missing the point slightly! Astrology was regarded as a science for hundreds of years. This book charts the history of the planets, not just from their own perspective, but from ours. So it would be difficult to write such a book without including some reference to astrology. I thought it was nicely and quite playfully done. I notice that there are no references made to the first chapter, which worried me at first, because it tells the story of the formation of the planets in terms of the genesis creation myth. My first thought was "Oh no! Have I wandered into some sort of Intelligent Design book". But I soon realised the Sobel is trying to give the reader a view of how the planets, and our knowledge and perception of them has changed through history, so including a creation myth is a vital part of the story, as this is where some of our earliest ideas about the universe around us came from.

This is an affectionate portrait of the solar system, full of interesting detail and asides. It is a much more personal book that Ms Sobel's previous work and you feel you are getting a closer view of the author herself. I would especially recommend it to people who dont usually read popular science and to fans of more rigourous books. Its a gentle introduction to this type of book and certainly leaves you with the feeling that Ms Sobel is passionate about her subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating account of our local galactic neighbourhood, 16 Sep 2006
This review is from: The Planets (Paperback)
Sobel skilfully completes the often-difficult task of presenting factual scientific information in an enthralling and page turning format. She does this by using different styles of writing to describe each of the planets for example mythology for mercury, science-fiction for Mars. This resulted in some controversy particularly in the chapter on Jupiter where Sobel brings in astrology, but, as Sobel has subsequently defended, this is more about relating human culture and how the planets have been viewed in the past as a reference point for understanding how we view them today. Thus Sobel's pursuit is definitely a scientific one, whilst still allowing room for other cultural interpretations of the planets to be aired.

If you have any interest in our planetary neighbours this is a superb introduction that will leave you wanting to find out more.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Planets - A Pulpit's View, 21 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Planets (Paperback)
As someone who'd thoroughly enjoyed 'Longitude' I'd greatly anticipated reading Dava Sobel's take on our extended home. Not that new scientific revelations had been expected, no, but simply a well-written and entertaining new slant on what countless Horizon programmes and suchlike had already amply illustrated in recent years.

Just scanning the table of contents had me frown. Just a little. Chapter two, 'Genesis' - mmh... Could it be? Yes, it could! Before you can say Creationism, we meet the "architect", his subtle but all-pervading presence insidiously slipped in between romantic hogwash about the formation of our early solar system. 'Let there be light...', 'The Book of Genesis tells...', and perhaps most gallingly, when the chapter draws to a confused close on the subject of solar eclipses and marvels at the matching relative size of moon and sun, '...is this startling manifestation of the Sun's hidden splendour part of a divine design?'

Never before have I tossed a book in disgust. I have now. Expecting an if not scientific then at least factual account based on current understanding, what we get is a book that could easily be thrust in your face by those persistent, motormouthed disciples after ringing your doorbell on Saturday afternoons. Sadly, these days one cannot be sure if this abomination of science is Dava Sobel's own doing, or indeed was foisted on her by money-grabbing US editors, along with the generally bloated style of writing that milks the more romantic aspects of our solar system until the udders hurt. Given the currently raging US-based controversy re. the His Dark Materials movie, the latter seems more likely.

Conclusions: don't bother reading this book, unless sickly sweet writing and the notion that our world was created in a handful of days don't offend you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative and engaging, 9 April 2011
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Planets (Paperback)
I've read and been delighted by Longitude and Galileo's Daughter so when I came across "The Planets." I was intrigued and wanted to read it. I knew even before I bought the book that it would be nothing like the other two by Dava Sobel, but by now she has established herself as a great writer and I trusted her and her instincts. If she wanted to take an unorthodox trip across the Solar System, I was all too willing to buy a ticket for the journey. And it was a refreshingly new look at the landscape that I thought I had already known all too well and have become a bit jaded with. Part informative, part imaginative this book both entertains and educates. It is well suited for both young and old readers. Each planet gets its own "voice" and is approached and dealt with from a unique point of view. The two works of art - one in fiction one in music - which this book reminds me of are Italo Calvino's "Cosmicomics" and Gustav Holst's "The Planets." Like Calvino and Holst, Dava Sobel possesses a rare gift of imagination and skill to bring a potentially dry subject and weave it into something that entices us and enthralls us. That's why I decided to recommend this book to my college Astronomy class that I teach this year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Out of this world, 6 Feb 2008
By 
Welly (West Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Planets (Paperback)
Read on a train trip to Torquay, this was a delightful meander through the Solar System. Snippets of information, entertaining tangents, flights of fancy...all perfect for those wanting to read something escapist and interesting but probably a nightmare to the 'shoes in a strait line' scientific reader. This is not the book for you if you want to know the specific gravity of Io or if you need to calatlogue the rotation speeds of Neptune's moons.

It is the sort of book that you read in order for your mind to go somewhere else. There are plenty of fascinating passages, but there are also lots of gentle pushes from Sobel that launch you off into a completely seperate set of thoughts that will see you returning in a page or two's time having missed the book's action but, nevertheless, had a fine time. It will drive scientific minds mad. I'm OK with that.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Falling between two stools, 21 Sep 2005
By 
G. L. Haggett "glynlhaggett" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Planets (Hardcover)
A brave attempt to bring science to a lay audience.
The bibliography leaves no doubt about the depth of the research which has gone into this book, but I ended up feeling that I had learned more about Dava Sobel's immense skill as a writer than I had about the planets as such. She is particularly impressive when she gives her imagination free rein, as at the end of the chapter on Mars, and her fascinated enjoyment of the subject and admiration for those who have helped to develop our understanding of it over the centuries are obvious.
Ultimately, however, the marriage between readability and the need to convey complicated scientific concepts is not an altogether happy one. The book ends up falling between two stools, not offering enough new for the specialist but being too detailed for the layman.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mostly meandering off-orbit, 8 April 2009
By 
John Holland (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Planets (Paperback)
A particularly strange book that struggles to establish its reason for being. Walking through the planets of the solar system in turn, we are presented with a combination of data, stories, history and mythology. For Mars, this takes the form of an essay from a Martian meteorite writing on behalf of the planet; for the outer planets, a biographical approach is used to describe the discovery.

Best considered as a Plutino - this book sometimes drifts inside the orbit of relevance but mostly stays well outside in the uncharted Kuiper belt. While Longitude was a concise story well-suited to the author's informal style, it was possibly a mistake to tackle the planets in the same style.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Great book let down by poor formatting, 20 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Planets (Kindle Edition)
Planets is a whistle-stop tour of the planets of the solar system. Dava Sobel's prose is a pleasure to read. The narratives she spins for each planet, while sometimes a bit silly, are always compelling.

The Kindle edition of this book, however, is poorly converted. Quotations are badly formatted and the illustrations are completely missing. If you want to read this book and enjoy it as it was meant to be read, buy the print edition.

(The print edition, which I bought when I have up in the Kindle edition, deserves four stars.)
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The Planets
The Planets by Dava Sobel (Paperback - 3 July 2006)
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