Sunday, July 10, 2016


A reprinted review

Miller, Ron, 2014, The Art of Space, Zenith Press, ISBN 978-0-7603-4656-3, hardback, 224 pages, 350 color photos, $35.

The latest speculative fiction coffee-table book is mostly art, I guess on the theory that most people don't read the words in coffee-table books anyway. My wife, the artist, wouldn't like this book: she likes to read the words too. I, on the other hand, am often perfectly happy flipping through to the next illustration. In The Art of Space you don't have to flip far. There are more color illustrations than pages by quite a lot. The book's coverage starts back in the 19th century and goes until I'm not sure when, but at least into the 80s. The pictures are reproduced at a comfortable size, so the reader can really appreciate why they were chosen for the book. [For those who want explanations, they're here. They are wit's very soul.]

The title, The Art of Space, is something of a misnomer. Many of the paintings and drawings depict astronomical objects, but most come from works of science fiction. The first illustrated page involves astronomy alone, but the next includes a moon base and a space station. So, this is space, but not the space you will find on the NASA website (another thing you should check out, but I digress).

I can criticize the choices Miller made about which artists to lift up and affirm. Chesley Bonestell of course deserves a place of honor, but what about Kelly Freas? In the 60s, when I started reading grown-up SF, he was everywhere! His cartoony covers were my introduction to space art, not the super realistic paintings that Chesley Bonestell had made a generation earlier. If that doesn't tell you right there that I was reading my father's copies of Analog magazine at the age of 10, you know it now. Other artists of space include John Schoenherr, and I don't think any of his work made it into this compilation. But The Art of Space is a comprehensive book, the fact that he covers the field pretty well while ignoring several artists that I'm familiar with, just shows you how many people were doing high-quality work.

The pages are thick and glossy, a more than suitable medium for the reproduction of magazine and book covers. I think if your drunk holiday guests spill beer on this book it won't be ruined. Tthat is no small benefit.

My favorites are the views of worlds from the surfaces of their satellites. These were early Bonestell masterpieces and they made his reputation. These make it easy to visualize living in space. Even the ones that don't contain any science of human habitation. I also really enjoy the brief section on aliens. Many artists have painted aliens, some well and some not so well. A small section near the end of the book doesn't really do this field justice. However the aliens that have been chosen, including many of the ultra-detailed creatures painted by Wayne Barlowe, make this part of the book a showcase of what can be done, and has been.

I need to hurry up and finish writing this review. I want to give my copy of the book to my 12-year-old nephew. He has the science bug, and I have just about infected him with the science fiction bug as well.

Take a look at this book's price. $35 for a thick, sturdy, beautiful showcase just can't be beat. If you don't want the book for yourself, buy it for your nephew or your niece. You will be the favorite aunt or uncle this year!


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