93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2009
Having worked on Apollo at Kennedy, I am always eager to read the latest books about space history. While I realize that the bulk of this book has to do with Aldrin's problems he endured (and overcame) after the mission, I was quite surprised at the number and magnitude of the technical errors I noticed regarding the mission. It made me wonder just how much input Aldrin really had in the writing of this book. Surely he knows better.
A few examples: the book states that Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 reached an altitude of 62 miles (it went up 116 miles). The book repeatedly refers to multiple engines on the LM descent and ascent stages as well as on the Service Module; each of the 3 only had one engine. The book refers to the "dark side" of the moon; (there is no "dark" side, only a "far" or "back" side). Even the text on the LM commemoration plaque is misquoted. There are many more.
There is a photo whose caption states it is taken after Aldrin's Gemini 12 EVA. If this is true, who took it from outside the spacecraft? It is actually a photo (JSC image S66-59907) taken prior to liftoff. (The visor protective cover is still in place.)
All in all, I still enjoyed the book, but I am always suspect about the rest of the book when I am able to find so many errors in the parts I am familiar with. But these errors in no way detract from my admiration of the man.
UPDATE: Aldrin's secretary contacted me to discuss the errors I noticed and requested a copy of my list; hopefully they will make it into the next printing.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2009
I'm a big fan of Buzz Aldrin and the space program in general, but I was disappointed by this book. The first part about the moon landing was interesting, and there were some interesting tidbits about how he felt during the whole thing.
The second part about his struggles back on Earth, and the end of his first marriage, are also interesting, although somewhat flat. That period of his life had to be deeply emotional for him, yet he relays the story as if he was reading the weather report. Mr. Aldrin is clearly an emotionally reserved man, which makes the fact that he even attempted this book something of an accomplishment. The story is interesting as far as it goes, but lacks any real depth.
The third part of the book, about his current wife Lois and his current jet-setting lifestyle, is the most disappointing. Buzz spends pages at a time essentially telling us about all of the celebrities he is close personal friends with, and how wonderful Lois is. However, he continues to break the cardinal rule of storytelling, in that he constantly tells us without really showing us. He keeps saying Lois is great, but never really gives us any real window into their lives together except to describe her apparent role as his business manager. His laundry list of celebrity acquaintances quickly becomes tedious, and comes across as bragging more than anything else. Buzz is an American hero in his own right, and it's puzzling why he feels the need to name drop to such a degree.
I think no less of Mr. Aldrin for attempting this book, but in the final analysis, it's so much less than it could have been.
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2009
On July 20, 1969 man first walked on the moon. The second man who walked on the moon that day was the author Buzz Aldrin. The title of this book came from Buzz's description of what he saw on the moon. It also aptly describes what his life became when he returned to earth. In a perfect definition of the phrase... "BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!"... Buzz did not enjoy the adulation and hero worship which necessitated appearances and speeches in front of large crowds throughout the world. His life evolved into deep depression and uncontrollable alcoholism. There were times he wouldn't get out of bed for days. The author tends to call these periods his "BLUE FUNK. His mental and alcohol problems in the face of worldwide acclaim sounded eerily similar to that of Ira Hayes one of the five Marines who raised the American Flag at Iwo Jima. Luckily Buzz has now been sober for thirty years.
The first few chapters of the book lead the reader from Aldrin getting ready to board the Apollo 11 craft for the historic trip to the moon... the actual landing and "moon-walk"... and their return to earth. The insights shared with the reader are exhilarating and reinforce what an absolute marvel space flight is. "THE LIFTOFF FROM THE MOON WAS INTRINSICALLY A TENSE TIME FOR ALL OF US. THE ASCENT STAGE SIMPLY HAD TO WORK. THE ENGINES HAD TO FIRE, PROPELLING US UPWARD, LEAVING THE DESCENT STAGE OF THE LM STILL SITTING ON THE MOON. WE HAD NO MARGIN FOR ERROR, NO SECOND CHANCES, NO RESCUE PLANS IF THE LIFTOFF FAILED. THERE WOULD BE NO WAY FOR MIKE UP IN COLUMBIA TO RETRIEVE US. WE HAD NO PROVISION FOR ANOTHER TEAM TO RACE FROM EARTH TO PICK US UP IF THE EAGLE DID NOT SOAR. NOR DID WE HAVE FOOD, WATER, OR OXYGEN FOR MORE THAN A FEW HOURS."
Upon his return to earth... between meeting Presidents... Kings... and Queens... Buzz did not know what to do with his life... so his depression and alcohol use steadily increased. He cheated on his first wife... and left her to marry another woman... who instead married someone else. He married a second time and that failed... and during the period following the moon landing his performance as an Air Force base commander... which he wasn't really qualified for... led to an embarrassing retirement from the military. The next two-thirds of the book leaves the reader feeling sorry for the author as he battles his demons... but then he starts boasting that he's known as a "player"... in his earlier days he would have called himself a playboy. And just when you're worried about his lack of income he casually states "LOIS AND I HOPPED IN MY RED MERCEDES-BENZ CONVERTIBLE..." Lois is his new love and many chapters are spent on her background... their romance... their marriage... and the fact that Lois is worth millions upon millions due to her families banking interests.
This is the story of a man who attended West Point... became a fighter pilot during the Korean conflict... earned a doctorate at MIT... became an astronaut who walked on the moon... cheated on his wife... has fought depression and alcoholism... just like millions of other people on this earth.
I guess this story proves that even astronauts who leave their footprints on the face of the moon... have *FEET-OF-CLAY!*
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2009
This book starts out with the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 and takes it from there. You read about how Mr. Aldrin dealt with depression and alcoholism in the years after the historic moon landing. The book is very interesting until about the halfway mark. Then it seems to be all about his wife, Lois and Mr. Aldrin just briefly touching on stuff he's doing(skiing, working on his Mars Cycler, making appearances in t.v. shows, etc.) The book kind of lost me there. It seemed to drag and I found myself skimming just to get to anything interesting and to finish the book.
"Magnificent Desolation" tells the reader nothing of Mr. Aldrin's growing up years and does not go into detail about him being a fighter pilot or how the selection process to him becoming an astronaut went down. I guess that is all covered in Mr. Aldrin's first book, "Return to Earth".
Overall, an ok read.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2009
I bought this book for my husband after hearing Buzz Aldrin on NPR. It sounded interesting. After my husband read it, however, I found it in the Goodwill pile. I asked his opinion of it and he reported that it was chapter after of chapter of depression, alcoholism and womanizing because it didn't seem like Buzz Aldrin could ever get over the fact that he was not the first man to step on the moon. On the other hand, it showed him as being human and it demonstrates that we sometimes create unrealistic expectations of famous people in our minds. It wasn't clear even near the end of the book as to whether he has recovered from alcohlism or not.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2009
The first part of this book was wonderful and an evocative and sensitive retelling of what by now has to be an old, old story for Mr. Aldrin -- the trip to the moon and back. The rest...not so much....people use the word "honest" here, and certainly Mr. Aldrin pulls no punches about some of the negative aspects of his life after NASA -- the drinking and depression, which it sounds like has been pretty treatment-resistant. And honestly, the thought of a man with the brains of Buzz Aldrin reduced to working in a used car dealership because he needed the money and routine of a job just about made me cry. And the homage he pays to his wife Lois is also wonderful.
However...there are parts of the memoir that don't ring true, and I also really don't think that he paid enough homage to the other astronauts in the program that contributed to his success. He refers to his EVA in the Gemini years as "America's first successful spacewalk" and claimed that it was successful because of improvements to the hand and footholds he suggested. Well, Ed White's spacewalk wasn't a failure, and that of Gene Cernan was certainly instructive....Aldrin's success was only possible because of what NASA learned from the earlier EVA. And Aldrin's account of his relationship with his father doesn't ring true, either. Maybe in an attempt to say nothing bad about the dead, he glosses over his father's irascibility, and claims that his father really didn't put any real pressure on him to succeed -- but that doesn't seem right in light of things Aldrin earlier revealed about his father being ashamed of him "only" graduating fourth from West Point. Buzz at one point legally changed his name from Edwin Aldrin Jr to his nickname, Buzz. A man who wants to pay homage to his father does not do that. The other thing that seemed to be "off" was his diffidence about being the first man on the moon. Every other space program memoir I have read, including those of Deke Slayton, Gene Cernan, Michael Collins, and Chris Kraft, point out that Buzz campaigned pretty heavily to be the first man to set foot on the moon.
In any case, it is clear that Aldrin has some pretty interesting ideas about future space exploration and has experienced a lot of frustration about not being taken seriously. It seems to me that fifty or a hundred years from now, Buzz will be remembered as a space visionary. I hope so. The man has been through a lot and perhaps has dreams too big for one lifetime.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Magnificent DesolationMagnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin (with Ken Abraham). This is Aldrin's second or third stab at an autobiography, but the first I've read. I saw it on the New York Times list of bestsellers, timed to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the moon landings, and thought I'd have to give it a read. I was rather disappointed. I don't know that I can say it a whole lot better than this other Amazon reviewer did: "At one point in the book, Buzz Aldrin observes: `I kind of like David Letterman's quirky humor, it is like mine'. This pretty much sums up the annoyingly self-centered storytelling of the book. As others have pointed out, the space-program related parts are boilerplate, nothing new or interesting here. The rest, 85% of the book, is self-centered crank, crank, crank, descent into depression and alcoholism, page after page of self-quotations from speeches and pitches of the same old `Mars cycler' or go-to-space-lottery half baked ideas. For a 3-year old to misbehave and throw a tantrum in order to get attention is normal, and most get over it in time. Buzz Aldrin is still stomping his foot, `me, me, me'." Perhaps that is overstating the case a little bit but reading this autobiography, which begins with the countdown to Apollo 11 and carries on to the present day, primarily details life after NASA. The most interesting parts of the book, then, are the in the opening pages. After that the reader is forced to walk with him through the dissolution of his first marriage (and his second and the first twenty years of his third), affairs and girlfriends, drunkenness and clinical depression, and the rise and wane (and rise and wane) of celebrity. It was forty years that Aldrin stepped on the moon and it seems that since then he has been trying to find some return to glory. So far it has not happened. This is a pretty dismal tale and one that is not only quite boring but also poorly-written. I love to read biographies of heroes, but the more I read of Aldrin the more I see that he is no hero. Desolation described the moon, it described much of Aldrin's life (by his own admission), and it describes this book. You'll want to take a pass on this one (or at least wait for the paperback).
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2009
The book had potential, and although it may have been a breakthrough in the 70s for a tough-guy hero to announce he suffered from depression and alcoholism, it is a tired, old story by now. At the beginning of the book, I felt for the guy, but as he rambles on for page after page of his angst, it gets old fast. He places blame on others abundantly, all the time denying that he does. This book has little to do with the space program, but the first three stories gives a summary of the mission. If he would have stayed to topic, it may have been a decent read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2010
This was the first biography and first book pertaining to actual space information, I ever read. I had high expectations with a new love for science and space I thought what better way to feed my curiosity then a book on one of the first men on the moon. I was disappointed that he had a mere two-three chapters about the space flight and almost a ten year span after that about his depression/alcoholism. After a while I thought, "What the hell is this?" Clearly I had made a bad choice,it was upsetting to know that someone who accomplished so much was so weak emotionally. I guess I was looking for something a little more influential.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2009
I was looking forward to reading this book on the trials and tribulations that Buzz had after returning from the moon. Having said that, I came away disappointed after reading it. First of all the book is only about 20% Apollo 11 and 80% other things - and as much as it may be important to have an entire chapter just on his wife, the need just alludes me. I hate to say it but Buzz comes across as one of the most egotistical, whiny people I have ever read about. I sympathized with him over his battles with depression and alcohol, but in the end it just seems he was saying to the world "Look at me! I'm important! blah blah.." And boy does he think of a lot of himself. He is a self proclaimed "ladies' man," he "knows many celebrities," he compares his own unique sense of humor to that of David Letterman, and he makes statements like "I didn't mind Tom Hanks using my term "Magnificent Desolation" for his IMAX film.." Whoa, what a gesture, Buzz. He even gloats about the MTV music award, or "moonman" being taken after his image and he can't even do a little skit on camera with Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story without reminding him, "You know, I'm the REAL Buzz." He also makes contradictory statements. First he claims he doesn't like the spotlight that comes with having walked on the moon, yet in the years since he's pretty much used it for all its worth by being able to mingle with celebs, take trips down to see the Titanic, a trip to the North Pole, dinner with the King Of Spain.. it goes on and on. His latest brand he's created for himself is "Rocket Hero." Even Michael Collins has humbly said in the updated preface to his book that he did not see himself as a hero in any way. He says he was just a man doing his job.
Buzz says he had full blown depression, yet years later he stops taking pills and visiting his therapist because his wife thinks it's just self pity. Trust me, if he had or has depression, you can't just stop taking your medication and treatment and say to yourself, "You know what? I'm done with that." If you are healthy enough to do that, I don't see how he could have been medically depressed.
If you're looking for memoirs that are more mission/space oriented, definitely check out Gene Cernan and Michael Collins' books.