Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review - Rocket Men

Going to the moon was pretty much the biggest deal in human history. There's no way around that. It was a big freaking deal, and it really still is. I'm sure most everyone has seen documentaries on the History Channel or National Geographic on the moon landings and/or seen the movies Apollo 13 or The Right Stuff. If you're an American, then it's pretty much your default setting to know at least a little about the moon landing. There are also quite a few books on the subject, and most of them are pretty darn good. There are a LOT though, so for one to really stand out it'd have to be pretty darn spectacular. A blurb on the cover of this book, Rocket Men, says that it's "brilliant" and "spectacular". Well, I have to disagree on those two, but it's still a good read nonetheless.

This is basically a more behind the scenes look at the Apollo program, with hundreds of memoir-like quotes from engineers, pilots, scientists and politicians on the moon landing. The more personal and historical side of the book is actually very interesting as it really shows the human side of the people involved and just how much of a strain this task really was. The astronauts become less mythical and much more human, and their differing views on the project and all around world-views are something I hadn't heard a lot of before this book. Like I said, when the story becomes focused on the people and the history of the Apollo program, this book really soars. The downside is that a lot of the book is engineer/scientist talk, with pages of technical details and things that just plain old didn't interest me very much. I'm not downplaying the importance, obviously, but to someone like me who isn't an engineer it just wasn't conveyed in an interesting way.

There's some really good stuff here though; the politics and infighting of things like who would be the first man to walk on the moon, what he would say and what would be on the plaque left on the moon are all things I didn't know before. The history of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War and how it related to the Space Race were fantastically conveyed; as I said before the historical narrative is where this book really shines.

Overall, this isn't a book I'd really call epic and spectacular. It's a well-written and very informative look at the more historical and personal side of the Apollo Program, which isn't usually the norm for books on the subject. Rocket Men, while not really reinventing the wheel for Space Race books, gives a good in depth look at the Apollo Program from a much more personal and human perspective than most books on the subject. It's well-written and something I recommend for any fan of space or American history.


  1. sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the review. Politics and infighting even in the space program, eh..

  2. This grabs my attention because you say it more the personal stories of the moon landing, I love that kind of stuff... I think I'm going to add this to my Reading List