This rather handsome little hardback has the right feel for a next generation popular science book for young readers. It still has the fun and illustrations of something like the Horrible Science series, but it feels more modern (and robust), more of today than the sort of frozen-in-time culture of the Beano that pervades the ‘Horrible’ books. Having said that I wish they hadn’t used the really old fashioned, early Tomorrow’s World ‘hi-tech’ font for the section titles.
We start from the Earth and take a tour outwards in the solar system and the universe, following up with the inevitable stuff on telescopes, space travel and a touch of cosmology. It’s all fine, with lots and lots of content. The only thing really that has been omitted is picking up more on the fun side that comes out of Horrible Science. I missed both the humour (even though I’d prefer it to be a bit more modern) and the personal touch. There wasn’t enough about the personalities in this book – it’s all fact, fact, fact.
As is often the case with a book like this, the physics is just a touch weaker than the astronomy. Mostly it’s not too bad, but when talking about gravity, for example, I would have liked to have seen a little bit on general relativity – it’s easy enough to make it approachable to this age group – and the explanation of microgravity on a space station is misleading it suggests the pull of gravity is practically zero, where actually it’s around 90% Earth normal, it’s just that astronauts are weightless because they are falling.
Overall, then, a good solid book on astronomy, space and cosmology, but one that isn’t going to set the world on fire.
Review by Brian Clegg