As the title suggests, this large format, hardback book is divided into three parts. The first part reviews how astronomy has expanded our view of the universe over the past 400 years. The discovery that we circle the Sun along with other astronomical bodies in the Solar System led to thoughts about whether we are unique or whether other beings exist ‘out there’.
As early as 1634, German astronomer Johannes Kepler speculated, in what is perhaps the first science fiction novel Somnium, that the inhabitants of the Moon would need to hibernate or grow protective shells to survive the intense heat during a Lunar day. Sixty years later Gabriel Daniel in A Voyage to the World of Cartesius depicted the inhabitants of the Moon as being bodiless, spiritual entities.
By the end of the 19th century, numerous novels used humanoid aliens, as a vehicle to expound philosophical and religious ideas and were not too bothered about keeping to scientific facts. Miller says that the first non-human aliens were the Martians in H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.
Part two provides a review of how life came about on Earth, leading onto what type of life forms might evolve on other planetary bodies where conditions are completely different from those on our home planet. Mars, in particular, became a focus for speculation that it harboured intelligent life. Networks of canals were seen on its surface, inspiring Percival Lowell to popularise the idea that these were built by Martians to collect water from the polar caps of the planet. Others, including H.G. Wells, were more skeptical, he wrote: “We shall find no flies nor sparrows nor dogs nor cats on Mars”. From here, Miller looks at the recent discovery of exoplanets and the hunt for those that might show signs of life.
Part three, and almost half of the book looks at the impact of belief in the existence of alien life on the coming of the flying saucers in the late 1940s. Here Miller looks at aliens in popular culture and the great myths that have shaped the subject and made it into an alien industry.
Miller utilises his background as an art illustrator and science fiction novelist to provide us with an insightful volume that features more than 200 high-quality illustrations that range from centuries-old engravings, books, comics and magazine art to movie posters and UFO photographs. An excellent guide to how extraterrestrials have haunted our minds for generations and inspired us to explore beyond the boundaries of our little planet.
ALIENS: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE / AUTHOR: RON MILLER / FOREWORDS: DAVID BRIN, DR JOHN ELLIOT / PUBLISHER: WATKINS PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: 19TH OCTOBER