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Back to the Moon: A Novel Hardcover – June 15, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Space is the final frontier--and its mysteries have fascinated Homer H. Hickam since childhood. In 1957, at age 14, he built his first rocket--and so began his space-age career, which eventually led to an engineering job at NASA. But in 1998, his calling blasted off in a new, unexpected way with the release of a bestselling memoir, Rocket Boys, (made into the mesmerizing movie, October Sky). Now, with Back to the Moon, the man-of-science-turned-memoirist dabbles in the world of fiction.

Despite its high-tech premise and lunar locale--Back to the Moon is no science fiction saga. It is, instead, a fast-paced technological thriller--filled with exceptional scientific know-how. (The author describes how spices are essential for astronauts because the normal aroma of food does not "drift into the sinuses or caress the palate in a microgravity environment.")

The space shuttle Columbia has been hijacked by an ex-astronaut and former employee of NASA, Jack Medaris. But Jack is by no means the bad guy--he has simply grown disillusioned with NASA, with its "timid" bureaucracy that no longer works for the good of mankind. Earth's supply of fuel is in jeopardy, and Jack believes that the moon holds the secrets of an alternative source of power. But a shady organization called the Millennium group is determined to stop the space shuttle from reaching the moon. As the shuttle hurtles through the galaxy, the renegade astronaut battles to steer the ship towards its destination. He also fights to keep himself from falling in love with one of the ship's crew members--a feisty female astronaut named Penny High Eagle.

Even if the plot complexities seems to defy gravity at times, Back to the Moon still dares to tread where few thrillers have gone before--into space. --Naomi Gesinger

From Publishers Weekly

From the informed imagination of the author of Rocket Boys: A Memoir (finalist for an NBCC Award; made into the movie October Sky), Hickham's fanciful debut novel reads like an Indiana Jones adventure-in-space. It's 2002 on Cedar Key, Fla., and former NASA engineer Jack Medaris's high-tech company makes plans to send a rocket to the moon. The mission is to bring back a quantity of the rare isotope helium-3 to power a reactor that will supply the earth with clean fusion energy for centuries to come. When the space vehicle is destroyed by shadowy conspirators, Jack decides to "legally" hijack the space shuttle Columbia. Just before Columbia takes off on its meticulously planned orbit mission, the renegade astronauts attempt to displace the scheduled crew, an unlikely all-female bunch Hickam has rendered ridiculous by portraying them as catfighting shrews. In the fracas, Jack's veteran shuttle pilot is fatally wounded and the Native American prima donna Penny High EagleAa gorgeous celebrity biologist, bestselling author and the object of contempt from the original female crewAwinds up in space with Jack. With romance blossoming in zero gravity, international forces collide as a sinister fossil-fuel consortium conspires to destroy the shuttle. Onetime NASA-engineer Hickam packs his narrative with complicated space-program minutiae, risking his readers' comprehension of the wild plot. Riddled with space jargon acronyms (LEM, EVA, etc.), the cosmic romp both enthralls and numbs. But as Hickam's tale heats up, the reader's tenacity pays off, and the rocket ride achieves high velocity. Major ad/promo; author tour. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (June 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385334222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385334228
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,083,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Homer Hickam (also known as Homer H. Hickam, Jr.) is probably best known for his # 1 New York Times best-selling memoir Rocket Boys which was adapted into the movie October Sky (a title he dislikes). Carrying Albert Home, his latest, is somewhat of a prequel to that work but, as he says, "somewhat not." He is also the author of the popular "Josh Thurlow" and "Crater" series. Winner of the University of Alabama's Clarence Cason Award and the Appalachian Heritage Writer's Award for his memoirs and fiction plus many other writing awards including an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Marshall University, Mr. Hickam, a Vietnam combat veteran, has also been a coal miner, scuba instructor, engineer, paleontologist (two T.rexes to his credit!), and now a best-selling author. It's that latter accomplishment he likes the best. For more information on Mr. Hickam and his various careers and books and cats and everything else, please go to

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Taylor Collins on September 5, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am 14 years old. This novel is fun to read. I couldn't pt it down because I wanted to know what was going to happen to Jack and Penny and Paco (who is a cat). I've really enjoyed all of Mr. Hickam's books, especially his books about Coalwood and growing up there. I and my parents are going to visit Coalwood this October 4 to meet Mr. Hickam and the other rocket boys. It should be a lot of fun. But on this novel, I really think it's a great book. My mom and dad both read it before me and said so. I just like the idea of us going back to the moon but I also really got into Jack and Penny's love story. I also loved when he wrote about Paco. A cat in space is a very funny and interesting idea. I think a cat in space would be just like Paco is described. I felt really bad for Jack when he found the message on the moon. I cried over that. I am getting all my friends to read this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I really liked Mr. Hickam's book. I also read Rocket Boys. This is a different kind of book - an adult space thriller. He kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. It's a love story, too, and a darned good one. I've worked in the space industry for a lot of years and this book comes as close as you're going to get how things really work inside NASA. Sure, Hickam has things happening that have never been done before but his characters are right on authentic. And I'm with him. Let's go back to the moon!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I found this a really good read, filled with interesting characters and a great plot.
It starts out with a highjacking of the space shuttle. Hickam has enough inside knowledge to make that perfectly plausible. There is a lot of work in space suits involved, something Hickam apparently was involved in a lot at NASA. Penny High Eagle, the payload specialist, is a great and sympathetic characture. Paco the cat who's aboard is a funny touch. There's a lot of fun to this novel. I think a lot of it is tongue in cheek that some reviewers can't figure out. It definitely is not boring and is a real page-turner.
It is very thought-provoking about the "Star Wars" killer satellites around the moon, plausible, too.
In a lot of ways, this novel is a love story. Jack wants most of all to go to find a message on the moon from his late wife. Yet, his wife never went to the moon so how could it be there? I teared up when I read what Jack actually finds there.
I noticed a note on a review about a pistol being fired in space. Gun powder does not require air to burn. It contains all the ingredients in it to work in a vacuum. A form of gun powder, after all, is what is used in solid fuel rockets! As for a space-suited astronaut getting his finger on the trigger, a .45 caliber pistol has plenty of room in its trigger guard. Recoil is a problem but Hickam has his astronaut well wedged in.
I enjoyed rummaging around the old Apollo 17 site with Medaris. Some really good writing here.
All in all, much recommended. Let there be no doubt that Homer Hickam knows how to write a novel. I love all his books. Remember, even his memoirs are written as novels
Keep it up, Mister Hickam! Can't wait for the Back to the Moon movie!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
First off, this was written before Hickam's Rocket Boys according to his web site even though it came out afterwards. Clearly, when he wrote this novel, Hickam was just developing his skills as a writer. Still, even though it's dated (he uses the ill-fated shuttle Columbia for this trip to the moon) this is a very good book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hickam's inside knowledge of NASA makes it a unique book. I think his tongue was very much in cheek most of the time while he was writing this but I still get the idea that the characters are based on real people he knew while working for the agency. After reading the novel, I felt as if I actually knew each and every one of the people in this book from old gruff Sam the head of mission control to Cecil the lawyer. I especially liked Cecil. He's a great character and is a good example of Hickam's development while writing this book into the great novelist he's become. Like his latest novel, The Keeper's Son, this is a novel filled with action and adventure but it is also a love story, too, and a good one. Not only is there love between the hero Jack Medaris and the beautiful Amerindian science reporter Penny High Eagle aboard the shuttle but there is also the memory of love still with Jack's dead wife who was also a rocket scientist. The scenes on the moon were especially well done. Hickam makes you feel as if you really are there. And the idea of having Jack walking around the old Apollo 17 site was pure genius. How lonely it must be there in reality. Hickam gave me that sense but also wrote it with wonder and hope. Then when Penny joins him and Jack reads the letter (I won't tell you who it's from), I got goose bumps! Even then, Hickam's talent was very impressive in his ability to make you feel for his characters.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bill Sawyer on August 25, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is remarkable to me that a space engineer/reviewer would not like this book. I am such, have worked in the industry for decades, and believe that Homer Hickam has written a delightful techno-thriller that not only is a compelling page turner but gives the reader, space insider or not, much to think about. I guess you'd have to say Hickam is nor has ever been much of a "in the box" kind of thinker. If he was, he wouldn't have written Rocket Boys/October Sky which has sold ten times more copies than any astronaut biography.
The plot of this novel is centered around the Apollo 13 type of "can do" engineering whereby what is available is modified to do the impossible. But this is more than a book of engineering. It is a deeply philosophical look at the American space program and the very real people who are in it. Hickam has created characters that I deeply cared about as I read their adventures although he, as evinced in all his books, has his tongue firmly in his cheek much of the time. Homer, by the way, no longer works for NASA and from what I can tell rarely devotes any time to it these days. Most of his writing has centered around the town of Coalwood, West Virginia and I notice that his new novel is set on the Outer Banks and is a seafaring novel. Much can be learned about Hickam the writer on his site... In any case, this is a great novel for everybody. Don't miss it.
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