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)
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