(…) If you want more than Mars, there’s another brand-new coffee-table book for space buffs: Beyond, by Michael Benson. Coming from the distinguished publisher of art books Harry N. Abrams, Beyond is not just a collection of pretty pictures; it presents stunning images from our solar system as inspiring pieces of art themselves. As classic sci-fi [sic] Arthur C. Clarke writes in a foreword: “These images serve as a spectacular reaffirmation that we are privileged to live in the greatest age of exploration the world has ever known.” This is indeed a pleasing message in a year that has seen a second Space Shuttle disaster, followed by a predictable spat of “is-it-worth-it?” hand wringing.
Of course it’s worth it, as the dazzling pictures in Beyond make clear. The pictures of Mars nicely complement those found in Magnificent Mars (almost no duplication), the close-ups of Jupiter and its moon Europa look like they should be hanging in a museum of modern art, and even the ones of Earth offer a fresh perspective. There are also arresting black-and-white photos of the moon that make it seem the perfect setting for outer-space film noir. The shots of Saturn and its rings are equally arresting. The Sun, Mercury, Venus, Io, Ganymede, Uranus, Neptune, and various asteroids also receive attention. Only Pluto is missing — but then we’ve never sent a probe to Pluto, and the full title of the book is Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes.
So the ninth planet will have to wait for a later edition (and I hope not too much later). Maybe one day, however, there will be a book called Magnificent Pluto. When there is, we’ll probably be even more anxious to know what’s in a book called Beyond.