The search retains an irresistible fascination, and this enthusiastic account brings readers up to date.



A new account of the scientific quest that “promises to spring even more amazing surprises in the years to come.”

Journalists Howell and Booth, as well as most experts, agree that Martian life would likely resemble that on Earth, and earthly organisms are tough. They can thrive without oxygen or sunlight, at temperatures above boiling and below freezing, and in the presence of strong acids, toxic metals, and poisons. However, none exist without water. The good news is that Mars has water. The bad news is that its surface is bone dry. In the era before spacecraft, many observers believed in life on Mars, led by the brilliant, wealthy Percival Lowell (1855-1916), who built his own observatory, saw the iconic canals, and never doubted that they represented works of an advanced civilization. The general public—but few astronomers—agreed until the pioneering 1965 Mariner 4 flyby revealed a cratered moonlike surface, an atmosphere 1/100 thinner than ours, and a temperature of minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The authors deliver a densely detailed account of subsequent unmanned flybys, orbiters, and landers whose missions have returned an avalanche of new geological, chemical, and meteorological discoveries that thrill scientists but may overwhelm general readers. Two more landers should launch soon, and much is expected. The authors conclude that most—but not all—experts consider Mars dead except, perhaps, deep underground, where liquid water may persist. A better environment existed billions of years ago, with volcanoes providing heat and gases, hot springs, and bodies of water that lasted perhaps 100 million years. “Conditions have deteriorated from earlier states into the freezing tundra-like world we see today,” write the authors, who provide the latest on the possibility of Martian life and proof that we probably won’t know for sure until humans set foot.

The search retains an irresistible fascination, and this enthusiastic account brings readers up to date. (32 color photos)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-950691-39-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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