1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
The Sirens of Mars  By  cover art

The Sirens of Mars

By: Sarah Stewart Johnson
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Try for $0.00

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy for $28.00

Buy for $28.00

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

“Sarah Stewart Johnson interweaves her own coming-of-age story as a planetary scientist with a vivid history of the exploration of Mars in this celebration of human curiosity, passion, and perseverance.” (Alan Lightman, author of Einstein’s Dreams)

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review Times (UK) • Library Journal

“Lovely...Johnson’s prose swirls with lyrical wonder, as varied and multihued as the apricot deserts, butterscotch skies, and blue sunsets of Mars.” (Anthony Doerr, The New York Times Book Review)

Mars was once similar to Earth, but today there are no rivers, no lakes, no oceans. Coated in red dust, the terrain is bewilderingly empty. And yet multiple spacecraft are circling Mars, sweeping over Terra Sabaea, Syrtis Major, the dunes of Elysium, and Mare Sirenum - on the brink, perhaps, of a staggering find, one that would inspire humankind as much as any discovery in the history of modern science.

In this beautifully observed, deeply personal book, Georgetown scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson tells the story of how she and other researchers have scoured Mars for signs of life, transforming the planet from a distant point of light into a world of its own.

Johnson’s fascination with Mars began as a child in Kentucky, turning over rocks with her father and looking at planets in the night sky. She now conducts fieldwork in some of Earth’s most hostile environments, such as the Dry Valleys of Antarctica and the salt flats of Western Australia, developing methods for detecting life on other worlds. Here, with poetic precision, she interlaces her own personal journey - as a female scientist and a mother - with tales of other seekers, from Percival Lowell, who was convinced that a utopian society existed on Mars, to Audouin Dollfus, who tried to carry out astronomical observations from a stratospheric balloon. In the process, she shows how the story of Mars is also a story about Earth: This other world has been our mirror, our foil, a telltale reflection of our own anxieties and yearnings.

Empathetic and evocative, The Sirens of Mars offers an unlikely natural history of a place where no human has ever set foot, while providing a vivid portrait of our quest to defy our isolation in the cosmos.

©2020 Sarah Stewart Johnson (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“From the wrong turns and inspired breakthroughs of scientific discovery to Johnson’s own lifelong fascination with Mars, this is a book that will have even the staunchest earthlings looking in wonder towards the red glow above.” (The Daily Beast)

“This elegantly crafted book describes humanity’s understanding of the Red Planet and conveys what it’s like to be a young scientist involved in the quest to discover more.” (Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and author of On the Future: Prospects for Humanity)

"The Sirens of Mars provides the prospect of great discovery, the future of space science, and an introduction to a writer of the first rank." (Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University)

What listeners say about The Sirens of Mars

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    57
  • 4 Stars
    27
  • 3 Stars
    8
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    1
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    65
  • 4 Stars
    12
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    1
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    52
  • 4 Stars
    19
  • 3 Stars
    11
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Masterpiece for the Ages

The title of this review may seem over the top. It is not. I believe this book will be taught in schools from elementary to graduate. It will be studied and analyzed. It will be studied for what it teaches about science and the love of science and, indeed, the necessity of science for humankind. As with all great writing, the book seems like it was written by itself with the author simply pouring the words out for transcription from some unfathomable intellectual power that only a few humans can have or experience. The book is humbling. If you are a scientist and have ever thought of writing a book for popular consumption about your field, this book is likely to be overwhelming and a lead to a throwing-up-of-hands. "How could I ever even begin to write like that. I give up." But perhaps, for a few others, this book will serve as an inspiration and and a model. It will encourage scientists to try to write about what they love as a means to share that love. I have had the privilege of doing cutting edge research in quantum mechanics with a dash of relativity. I have had the privilege of leading applied research on how a life saving vaccine might reach billions of people in developing countries. I have told my family, including children and grandchildren, about my work. That telling has represented some of my most enjoyable moments. Johnson's book makes me feel that, even in my late 70s, I might sit down at my computer and try to tell the stories I have told my family. To talk about making a small incremental contribution in addition to the thousands who went before me and why that contribution, albeit so small, means something. It means something about humans, our place in this world, and indeed, our place in the universe. Even though this world and this universe will eventually disappear into nothingness, it is of utmost importance that we try to understand this world and this universe, even if it is only for the fleeting bit of time that all of our ancestors will be here so that they may live fulfilling lives.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • NJ
  • 03-27-22

Too many personal stories

Interesting except that author interwove personal stories. That became intolerable when, discussing Curiosity, the author compared the landing time to how long it took for "obstetrician to tug my son from the womb." I am Interested in Mars, not the author's family.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Like a great friend ….

Great narrator, easy to listen to; like a good friend or neighbor telling you about her work with Mars - not speaking down to you , not lecturing you, not losing you with abstract or obscure science - just engaging, fascinating insights into the program.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Just great!

What a pleasure to read something so uplifting, so full of direction. There are times I wonder if everyone's gone crazy, then I hear about inspired people who march us worthless, destructive creatures forward. Thank goodness.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good, almost great

Generally, I enjoyed the book but I wish the focus remained on Mars exploration, it's a topic that deserves a book written with the knowledge and expertise of the author. There was just too much focus on the author's personal life, which I'm sure is important to her but not at all interesting or necessary to tell the story of searching for life on Mars.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

informative and interesting

it's exactly what it says it is. based heavily in science so it can read dry sometimes, especially the first part of the book. but it's interesting, very informative, with personal stories added in to connect the science to something real and relatable.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing Mars Science Book!

This is one of the best planetary science books I have ever read. Absolutely fantastic. Loved the connection to history that was weaved through the entire narrative.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant take on Mars exploration

A wonderful telling of the history of the exploration of Mars and the search for life. The story is captivating and the vocal performance is excellent.