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Reviews of The Milky Way by Moiya McTier

The Milky Way

An Autobiography of Our Galaxy

by Moiya McTier

The Milky Way by Moiya McTier X
The Milky Way by Moiya McTier
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2023, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Lyndal Martin
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About this Book

Book Summary

Astrophysicist and folklorist Dr. Moiya McTier channels the Milky Way in this approachable and utterly fascinating autobiography of the titular galaxy, detailing what humans have discovered about everything from its formation to its eventual death, and what more there is to learn about this galaxy we call home.

After a few billion years of bearing witness to life on Earth, of watching one hundred billion humans go about their day-to-day lives, of feeling unbelievably lonely, and of hearing its own story told by others, the Milky Way would like a chance to speak for itself. All one hundred billion stars and fifty undecillion tons of gas of it.

It all began some thirteen billion years ago, when clouds of gas scattered through the universe's primordial plasma just could not keep their metaphorical hands off each other. They succumbed to their gravitational attraction, and the galaxy we know as the Milky Way was born. Since then, the galaxy has watched as dark energy pushed away its first friends, as humans mythologized its name and purpose, and as galactic archaeologists have worked to determine its true age (rude). The Milky Way has absorbed supermassive (an actual technical term) black holes, made enemies of a few galactic neighbors, and mourned the deaths of countless stars. Our home galaxy has even fallen in love.

After all this time, the Milky Way finally feels that it's amassed enough experience for the juicy tell-all we've all been waiting for. Its fascinating autobiography recounts the history and future of the universe in accessible but scientific detail, presenting a summary of human astronomical knowledge thus far that is unquestionably out of this world.

Foreword from Moiya

"I HAVE LOVED THE STARS too fondly to be fearful of the night."

This last line from Sarah Williams's poem "The Old Astronomer to His Pupil" has often been a sort of mantra for me. And not just because it makes me sound like a spooky Victorian recluse.

I don't remember how, but as a young kid, I got it into my head that the sun and moon were my celestial parents. I imagined that they watched over me, and I actually talked to them, told them about what I was learning in school and what my friends were like (because, as I was surprised to learn, those friends didn't talk to the moon and sun, so someone had to tell our celestial mom and dad what was up). When my earth parents started having arguments at night, I cried to my celestial mom. And when my birth dad stopped showing up for scheduled home exchanges, my little kid mind decided to blame the sun, too. To this day, I don't like LA because it's too sunny.

My earth mom fell in love again and we moved from our ...

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Reviews

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Along with giving information, the author often falls into passages of pure poetry. "As long as particles can move around and interact, nothing in space can truly die," she writes. Elsewhere, the galaxy muses "I am space; I am made of space; and I am surrounded by space," lending romance to a description of the galaxy's vastness. McTier is a folklorist and science educator as well as an astrophysicist, and this book gives her the chance to blend the three. Some of my favorite parts were the references to cultural myths, taking readers on a tour through the Milky Way's other names around the world, like Silver River, Way of Birds, Straw Thief's Way and Deer Jump...continued

Full Review (762 words)

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(Reviewed by Erin Lyndal Martin).

Media Reviews

BookPage (starred review)
[C]reative, humorous and enormously entertaining...[I]t's clear Dr. McTier has harnessed the sense of marvel she felt as a child, when she imagined the sun and moon as celestial parents who watched over her and talked to her on a regular basis. That childlike wonder, combined with her expertise in mythology and astronomy, makes her the perfect human to assist in telling this story.

Scientific American
As a character, the Milky Way is a cross between a Greek goddess and GLaDOS, the artificially superintelligent computer system from the Portal video-game series. She gossips about other galaxies, teaches us about her past and imparts a primer on astrophysics, all the while relishing every opportunity to throw shade on humankind's egocentrism and closed-mindedness.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Astrophysicist McTier delivers in her debut a delightful report on the Milky Way's inner workings...McTier writes that her goal is to help people 'understand how ephemeral [our] existence is.' She succeeds smashingly. The result is truly stellar.

Booklist
[A] one-of-a-kind look at our galaxy...Educational, informative, and original, this will leave readers eagerly anticipating McTier's next book.

Kirkus Reviews
McTier sprinkles humor throughout her whimsical look at the cosmos...[T]he author clearly knows her subject and delivers enough fascinating information to keep the pages turning.

Author Blurb Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, author of The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred
With The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy, Moiya McTier gives us an exciting romp through the universe from the perspective of a most unexpected guide: our local sentient collection of stars, gas, dark matter, planets, and its wayward humans. What an exciting way to learn about everything in the universe, from its earliest moments to star births and deaths. Only here will you learn what the Milky Way thinks of its neighbors. McTier invents the genre of cosmic gossip -- what fun it is!

Author Blurb Kelly Weinersmith, New York Times bestselling author of Soonish
If you want to learn about the Milky Way, who better to go to than the source? Well, up until now, the Galaxy hasn't been talking – but all of that has changed! Turns out, the Milky Way has a sense of humor, an attitude, and, frankly, isn't super impressed with us as of late. If you're looking for a fun and unique way to learn about astrophysics – this is the book for you!

Author Blurb Stephon Alexander, author of Fear of a Black Universe
Brilliantly blending astrophysics and mythology, McTier has crafted an out of this world work of genius. The Milky Way is a remarkably clever, eye-opening entry into the astrophysics cannon that radically changes our perspective on space and our place in the vast cosmos. As entertaining as it is informative, this book is an essential read for earth dwellers who want a better understanding of our galactic home.

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Beyond the Book

The Hubble Telescope

Hubble telescope floating in spaceIn The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy, Moiya McTier references the discoveries made by the Hubble telescope. NASA refers to the Hubble as "the most famous telescope," and the reasons are easy to see. For over 30 years, it has provided insights and never-before-seen imagery — and it's still evolving.

The telescope is named for Edwin Hubble, a groundbreaking American astronomer born just before the 20th century. Like the telescope that bears his name, Hubble had the mind and creativity to see what had been unknown. Namely, he proved that there are galaxies beyond the Milky Way and postulated that the universe expands at a constant rate.

The Hubble's origins go back to a 1943 paper by theoretical physicist Lyman ...

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