Book Review · Book Updates · Life Experience · Memoir · Non Fiction · Psycological

Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet – Dallas Campbell (Review) @simonschusterUK #NFNovember


Sent to me by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: 05/10/17

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 978-1471164057

Format: Hardback, 256pp

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Summed up in a word: Inspiring

First Impressions

Like a lot of people, I have always had a huge fascination with outer space and travelling to other worlds. Much like being an avid reader, there is so much to explore out there! Dallas Campbell has put together an impressively comprehensive and visually stunning account of the space race (and eventual space joint-effort) that has been going on for centuries. Ad Astra tells a story of how we dreamed of seeing the stars, how we made that dream a reality and what is next for our voyage towards other planets. I loved this book so much and I highly recommend it to all NF lovers. Full review below.

Book Synopsis

Need some space?

For almost all human history we’ve been firmly rooted to the Earth. And, sure, it’s got some good things going for it: nice views, friendly inhabitants, good coffee. Air. But what if you want to get off?

Whether you’ve got itchy feet and need a bit of a break, or you’re looking for a complete change of scene, this book has all the information you’ll need to leave, with FREE expert advice from the men and woman who can actually make it happen.

Do I need a passport? How do I know if I have the right stuff? Can I take my dog? What spacesuit do I need? Where am I going to go? What am I going to eat?

As well as being a deeply impractical guide to getting off the planet, this is an eclectic and beautifully illustrated mix-tape of space travel stories – both real and imagined. From the migrating lunar geese that flew us to the moon in the 1600’s, to Elon Musk’s wild plan to get humans to Mars en masse in the future; from the history of early rocket science to the Soviet tortoises that secretly won the space race.

A collection for anyone who has looked up in wonder at the stars… And then wondered how to get there.

My Review

“Going to space isn’t easy. At the time of writing, 553 humans have done it. Only 24 people have gone beyond earth’s orbit, and of those, 12 of them have walked on the moon – of whom 6 are still with us. Seven people have paid to go into space with their own money. Eight people have died on-route to space and 11 on the way home, with several others losing their lives in training.” Dallas Campbell

There are many key selling points for Ad Astra for all of us non-fiction lovers. From discussion about science and technology that is neither over complicated or over simplified to a genuinely fascinated author who does his best to encapsulate the essence of the excitement, admiration, blood, sweat and tears that has gone into getting to humans to the moon and further. Most importantly, as it is an illustrated guide, is the fact that it is visually stunning. Though there are plenty of superb visual accompaniments, I would have preferred more. Greedy I know but that was my only issue with this book, as there are several barren pages of plain text that could have done with some visual elaboration.

Dallas has contributed quite a lot to modern popular science TV but I feel like Ad Astra is his crowning achievement. Even picking this book up causes a feeling of inspiration and anticipation. In terms of content within, there is plenty of quality insights to experience. Along with the long, rich and turbulent history of space travel Dallas looks into the technological, physiological, cultural, international, nutritional, fatal (and many other -al) aspects of our quests to conquer the stars. Split into three sections, Dallas takes us from the beginning, with Domingo and his geese, to Elon Musk and the mission to set-up Mars as one of many way-stations on our journey to other planets. Every section emits pure fascination and I was captivated. Painting a very clear picture of how rigorous, dangerous and intense it is to even get close to 100km atmospheric line where space begins.

The decision to make this an illustrated guide was genius. The collection of images that accompany the text just stop the reader in their tracks. I spent more time looking at the wonderful images than I did reading. When I wasn’t lost in vivid pictures, diagrams, illustrations, photo, artwork and blueprints I was taking all the well balance information that Dallas had put together. Dallas is a story teller, his narrative based writing is satisfying. DC changes up the pacing with interviews, diary entries, references, bios, equations, flow charts and questionnaires.

DC’s writing is crafty, it is a mixture of scientific intrigue and exciting entertainment. The combination was mesmerising and made reading it fluid and gratifying. It is clear that DC loves the idea of space travel and is incredibly excited to working on this project as it shows on every page of this book. DC attributes the inspiration for the book to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and it definitely comes through.

Overall Ad Astra is NF gold. This book is an investment for any NF reader as it contains the essence of centuries of space exploration and it looks fantastic. I will be holding on to this for when my boys grow older and harness their own fascination with the universe. Highly recommended and I sincerely hope that Dallas is working on another book right now. Dallas describes a future where space will be readily available for us all to explore and I hope that I live to see it.

Pick up a copy of Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet here: Simon & Schuster / Amazon UK / Goodreads

About Dallas Campbell

Dallas Campbell has presented some of the most ambitious landmark series across the BBC, such as City in the Sky with Dr Hannah Fry and Stargazing Live with Dara O’Brian and Brian Cox, which included broadcasting Astronaut Tim Peake’s historic live launch to the International Space Station and was nominated for a BAFTA. In 2014, Dallas embarked on a six-part international series for National Geographic and he continues to regularly present for the Horizon Guide series on BBC4. In 2016 he went back in time to re-create ‘Television’s First Night’, for the 80th anniversary of BBC television. Dallas is a regular contributor to the BBC’s science magazine Focus, The Times’ Eureka magazine and has written for The Observer.


4 thoughts on “Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet – Dallas Campbell (Review) @simonschusterUK #NFNovember

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s