Lee Billings has written a very worthy first book, one of the best science volumes I have ever read.
This young science journalist manages to describe the search for life in the universe with intelligence–but unburdened by technical details. One piece I appreciated was a non-technical description of how the Earth will eventually lose its oceans and become uninhabitable.
Mr Billings smoothly inserts biographical material from scientists living and dead to give insights as to why people care deeply about exploring the frontiers of knowledge. The fruits of extended interviews with Frank Drake, Jim Kasting, and Sara Seager (among others) add a depth to this book that I can describe as luminous.
A small bit that was impressive to me was that it took me eighty-six pages to find my only quibble with the book, a description of solving the Earth-Sun distance that used the kilometer–a measuring unit not yet invented when the 1769 transit of Venus was studied and the radius of Earth’s orbit finally determined.
This book is not stuffed with pretty pictures. Mr Billings doesn’t need them. He writes with an elegant prose and a storytelling ability that is wholly engaging. It’s a great book for a motivated high school science student, amateur astronomer, or anyone who enjoys a good read.