ALIENS: SCIENCE ASKS...

ET es­says

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

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!

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