What I’m Reading: The Sirens of Mars by Sarah Stewart Johnson

“I suddenly saw something I might haunt the stratosphere for, something for which I’d fall into the sea. Not fame or glory, or a sense of adventure, but a chance to discover the smallest breath in the deepest night and, in so doing, vanquish the void that lurked between human existence and all else in the cosmos.”

-Sarah Stewart Johnson, The Sirens of Mars

The Sirens Of Mars is a love story.

It’s a love story between the author, Georgetown professor and planetary scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson and a centuries old scientific journey. The journey weaves together the discoveries of Galileo, the politics of the Cold War, the struggles and eventual triumph of Carl Sagan, Johnson’s own childhood adventures in Kentucky, her romance with her husband, the advancement of women in a male dominated field and finally, the universe itself.

I have reviewed a few novels here that I have labeled “escapism.” This non-fiction, popular science book about our search for life on Mars is escapism. It’s a pure, optimistic, feel-good tale premised on the dreams of its author. In a time when nations, states, cities and individuals seem to be increasingly looking inward, Johnson encourages us to look up. To feel awe for what is outside of us and the gorgeous mysteries that surround us. She convinces her readers to see that in the planet that glows red amongst the twinkling white stars, there is potential. There is hope. There is magic. And maybe, just maybe in its smallest, most innocuous and unadulterated form, there is life. “The smallest breath in the deepest night.”

I strongly recommend this book.