ALIENS: SCIENCE ASKS...
released OUT NOW! 224 pages | Paperback/ebook
Editor Jim al-Khalili
Publisher Profile Books
This collection’s full title continues Is There Anyone Out There? and (spoilers!) the answer is a hesitant “no”. Intelligent extraterrestrials are unlikely to exist, or they’ll be so different from us that we’ll struggle to recognise them.
There are 19 essays here, but if you’re hoping for sensational UFO stories there’s just one Roswell- and Area 51-filled chapter by Dallas Campbell to keep you entertained. Otherwise brace yourself for SETI statistics, the Fermi paradox, cellular chemistry and Mars’ hostile environment.
Two chapters are of particular interest to SF fans. Ian Stewart recounts the best examples of aliens in literature: it’s a solid introduction to mainstays like Clarke and Heinlein, although fresher references are rare, limited to Stephen Baxter and Orson Scott Card. Meanwhile, in a snarky highlight of the book, Adam Rutherford tackles movie monsters, pummelling the likes of Avatar (“a tiresome lack of imagination”) and Prometheus (“wrong from the very first frame”) across nine pages. Without Campbell, Stewart and Rutherford it would be a phlegmatic assortment: worthy, informative but inconclusive and, ahem, lifeless. Dave Bradley
There was a 19th century prize for first alien contact. Martians were excluded – for being too easy!