What Does a Martian Look Like?

Authors: Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart
Ebury Press
RRP 6.99, US $16.95

ISBN 0 091 88616 3
Available now

Creatures... that are born pregnant; with 20 different sexes; that eat their own children; that can survive without water for a quarter of a billion years. Absurd? Not at all. These are creatures alive on planet Earth. And they show us just how different alien life could be from anything we know.

What Does a Martian Look Like? is the paperback version of Evolving the Alien. Obviously, the new title is a sign that today's book buying public are evolving backwards. Was Evolving the Alien too highbrow for the masses? Yes, it would seem so. What Does a Martian Look Like? leaves no room for confusion, and certainly couldn't be accused of being an ambiguous title.

The book is a clever idea. There are hundreds of books out there that look at the possibility of existence of sentient live on far off worlds, but I have not come across one before that concentrates entirely on trying to prove that alien life forms can exist anywhere and everywhere. This angle also makes our quest for extra terrestrial life forms more desperate. It's as though authors have given up on the hope of finding proof of other life forms existing on Earth-like planets and are instead starting to wonder if there could be life anywhere.

The authors also attack previous sceptical works that suggest - because of the number of different events which need to occur to kick-start life on this planet, as well as the number of different things that need to be in place to ensure life continues to thrive - that there is very little chance of us finding proof of other worlds with intelligent life any time soon. The authors of What Does a Martian Look Like? state there could very well be life not too far away from our own planet.

One problem with this work is that it is pure speculation from beginning to end and, while it uses creatures from this planet as examples of what could be out there (creatures which are born pregnant, some that have 20 different sexes and a species which can survive without water for a quarter of a billion years), they are forgetting that they do live on Earth and so the atmosphere that sustains us also helps to sustain them. Would they be able to live on the Moon?

Despite this very large hole in the whole argument this book is fascinating reading. Just don't take it too seriously.

Darren Rea

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