Goldsmith brings the stars into crystal-clear focus in this down-to-earth companion volume to the PBS T.V. series, for which he served as editor and co-author. As in his earlier work (Supernova!, 1989; Nemesis, 1985), Goldsmith goes light on the math, heavy on the human interest-a dandy approach for the vast science-illiterate general audience. Touring the astronomical ``Mecca'' of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, he stresses the effects of altitude on car driving as well as scientific judgement. Exploring the dicey theory of ``dark matter,'' he underscores the obsessive work habits of Vera Rubin, the theory's creator. Amateur astronomy, with its lure of ``beauty, mystery, and distance,'' is approached through the eccentric figure of John Dobson, ex-Vedantan monk. Goldsmith's range is wide (expanding universe, star-mapping, life-cycle of stars, radio astronomy, satellite missions, gravity waves, etc.), his prose vivid (``at the summit, bright stars...seem to have been wired into high-voltage sockets''), his conclusions-aside from some silly pot-shots at astrology-solid. Not as sweeping as Carl Sagan nor as brilliant as Timothy Ferris, but gentler and funnier than either. A fine introduction to modern astronomy, just in time for next summer's spectacular solar eclipse.