8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2007
You don't have to be an astronomer to appreciate this book. I happened to have it with me at the Society for Popular Astronomy's astronomy course, where the husband of one of the participants started to leaf through the pages. Though his interest is in wildlife rather than astronomy he was immediately hooked, and decided to buy his own copy. If you are expecting a dry academic tome, look elsewhere. But if you want to find out about not just how astronomy has developed from the dawn of time, and the people behind it, all explained in a highly readable text, this is for you.
The authors have put in an impressive amount of background research into the life and times of those people we have all heard of, such as Kepler, turning them from names into real people with lives and loves. When it comes to opinions, we hear at first hand from acknowledged experts in the field, such as Owen Gingerich and Allan Chapman. Their quotes speak directly to you. My only quibble is that they are rarely allowed to 'say' anything, but they 'confide' or 'aver' or 'opine', in the interests of variety, which gets a little tedious at times. The style is Readers' Digest or New Scientist - popular but authoritative.
Though the authors have clearly travelled the world to see the actual sites and talk to the experts, this does not interfere with the narrative and I have come across far more personalised works from some well-known names. This is far more than a quick pot-boiler of a book with research courtesy of Wikipedia and a day in a library. There are occasional lapses in editing - it doesn't know whether to use UK or US spelling, for example - but these would probably escape anyone other than another editor.
To sum up, this is an excellent book, and as well as gracing your coffee table with its illustrations, many of which are different from those you see elsewhere, it is a great read. I do know the authors (as do many in the field), but I do not pull punches and am happy to have this review under my own name.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2007
I couldn't disagree more with the first three reviewers. In fact, given their excrutiating (sic) spelling, I wonder if they are just one reviewer with a grudge. This is a beautiful book - visually and literally. There are many tomes on this subject, but few are as overarching in their perspective or as engaging in their style. Couper and Henbest capture the wonder that prehistoric people must have held for the heavens, the mythology they wove around that and their sometimes amusing but increasingly accurate attempts to understand the physical nature of the cosmos.
Whilst it is a fine book to browse, the accessible style and engaging personal descriptions draw the reader in and make it hard to put down. In a field where there is plenty of duller, dryer competition, this is the one to buy.
1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2007
I have to go with the majority low opinion of this book expressed here. The pictures are nice but then again you can buy umpteen books of great pictures of space. It is the poor writing that lets this book down, and poor research. I rather think that the sole good review was written by the authors themselves or friends of theirs.