Top positive review
A splendid book , a major achievement.
on January 20, 2004
First of all, if you have the slightest interest in the geology of Mars, or in maps, or in planetary science (and, if not, why are you here?) you *need* to read this book.
"This is a splendid book and a major achievement in the study of Mars.... A number of authors might fairly claim to have written the best Mars novel, but this is the best factual book on Mars that money can buy."
-- New Scientist, Google for online review
"When the investigator, having under consideration a fact or group of facts whose origin or cause is unknown, seeks to discover their origin, his first step is to make a guess." --GK Gilbert, Science 3(53), 1896 (which codified the method of multiple working hypotheses). Gilbert, of course, was "one of the happy generation of American geologists who...took their impressive beards and intellects to every corner of the American West."
Tidbits: Gene Shoemaker's first map of Meteor Crater, in 1957, was done for the old AEC, as part of a truly crackbrained scheme to manufacture plutonium by detonating uranium-wrapped A-bombs underground. Which, thank heavens, never got very far. Gene didn't like the idea, either, but who's to turn down funding?
No map of exotic lands is complete without exotic names, and the map of Mars is well-stocked: Noctis Labyrinthus, the Labyrinth of Night. Tithonium Chasma, Albe Patera --a volcano that occupies an area about equal to that of India --Claritas Fossae, Utopia Planita... Olympus Mons! Formerly Nix Olympica, the Snows of Olympus --and the highest mountain known to humanity. Mauna Kea, Earth's biggest volcano, would fit comfortably inside Olympus' summit caldera. OM contains some 3.5 million cubic km of rock--or the area of Texas, if excavated 8 km deep. This is one *humongous* mountain. And Vastitas Borealis, the northern lowlands, is arguably the flattest place in the solar system.
I like the respectful attention Morton pays to science fiction about Mars -- which echoes the attention and affection paid to SF writers by working planetary scientists. Of course, sometimes these are the same people, as with UofA planetologist, novelist (Mars Underground, recommended), photographer, artist and all-around Renaissance man Bill Hartmann (who we really should invite as an AGS guest speaker); and Geoffrey Landis, a NASA space scientist and parttime novelist (Mars Crossing, recommended) who helped to develop the Mars Pathfinder.
About the only place that Mapping Mars fails us is in the illustrations. The publisher made a valiant effort, but an octavo-format book just doesn't have the page size for drama. Fortunately, you can Google for suitably-impressive maps and photos of Mars.
Happy reading! -- Pete Tillman
Consulting Geologist, Tucson & Santa Fe (USA)