132 of 145 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2011
This is a manuscript for a movie. In recent interviews Ben Mezrich has been very open about that. He writes books from the very beginning in the hopes that they will be optioned for movies. And it shows.
Mezrich, author of "The Accidental Billionaires," the book upon which the Facebook movie "The Social Network" was based, went in search of his next great true-story thriller. What he settled on was the tale of Thad Roberts, a student enrolled in NASA's Cooperative Education Program who turned thief and decided to steal moon rocks and sell them online for easy cash. The story behind "Sex on the Moon" (itself an awful title) is hyberbolically subtitled "the Most Audacious Heist in History." Roberts' theft is by no means entitled to such an exciting description. The heist itself was fairly uncomplicated and involved nothing more than a clever use of chemical dust to break an electronic combination lock and some elbow grease to drag a safe out of a room and into a car. The only thing remotely remarkable about the theft is that actual moon rocks are involved. Had Roberts stolen terrestrial gem stones, he would have warranted nothing more than a mention in the local news paper police blotter. Mezrich has to work hard -- very hard -- to fill this thin conceit with enough volume to fill a book.
And then there's the writing. Which is awful. This is some of the most hackneyed, rigid, trite prose I've ever read. Some examples: "she had given him her number. It had been like rocket fuel in his bathing-suit all the way home" or "sooner or later, the truth would be as clear as the tattoo on her thigh" or "Thad only knew for sure what he was feeling. Which was beyond anything he could remember feeling before" or "suddenly, reality hit him like a Saturn V rocket to the face." Ugh.
Mezrich also seems to have a writing tick in which he is compelled to start sentences with "Hell,..." as in "Hell, the guy was really making a scene", "Hell, he was beginning to feel loose", "Hell, maybe they'd all end up visiting that pristine beach", "Hell, maybe the need to apologize went even further back", etc., etc. This became almost comical as the pages wore on.
I have to hold the editor(s) of this book responsible for this. I don't think they read this book. Here's some zingers they let slip through: "Matt had remembered Thad as the brilliant kind in physics classes who was willing to go further and think freer than anyone else." Think "freer"? Describing an unpleasant scene inside a federal prison Mezrich writes "there was such an undercurrent of anger and subverted violence in that place." "Subverted" violence? Could he have meant submerged or supressed? In another chapter, he refers to the "infamous orange soil" collected by the Apollo astronauts. Okay, that soil was certainly _famous_, but "infamous"? Someone needs to check the dictionary.
This is a lousy book undeserving of your time. Buy something else.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2011
And Thad Roberts really needed one. He is one of those poor slobs for whom the magnetic pull of self-destruction is as irresistible as a Siren's song. (Darwin would have had a field day with that.). At least Odysseus had the smarts to order his sailors to lash him to the mast and stuff wax in their ears. Roberts wasn't nearly as prudent, though he was certainly smart.
Booted from the family fold for the unforgivable sin of engaging in pre-marital sex, Roberts claws his way up from the depths of despair to earn a prestigious internship at NASA only to blow it trying to pull off one of the most cockamamie scams in modern history; stealing moon rocks.
That Roberts even got to NASA in the first place was something of a miracle. How a broke, disenfranchised kid managed to rack up the pre-recs for a shot at the big time is one question I still had at the end of the book. Roberts takes courses in physics, geology, anthropology, Russian and Japanese. He obtains a pilot's license. He learns to scuba dive. He completes a charity bike ride for cystic fibrosis and raises $10,000. That accomplishment seems to be what cinches his entry into the Johnson Space Center at Houston, where he spends three semesters glad-handing his fellow interns and trolling in and out of various labs and simulators with the James Bond theme song playing in his head.
Ego issues? Possibly.
Roberts also has a wife back in Utah. Something he doesn't hide, but doesn't exactly advertise. It wouldn't mesh with the ultra-cool, geek-meets-Mission Impossible persona he's created, the same persona that attempts a ridiculous, bumbling moon rock heist that ultimately does earn him a dope slap from the universe in the form of an eight year prison sentence.
Writer Ben Mezrich does an nice job nailing the zeitgeist of NASA, at least from Roberts' perspective, which brings me to the big question I had with this book. Are the thoughts in Roberts' head, his, or Mezrich's "interpretation" of them? There is a sort of contrived feel to expressions like "Thad swelled with pride", etc. The third person narration makes this book read like a hybrid of memoir, biography and creative non-fiction. My rat-like mind was scrabbling for a label(still is) and I had to push that aside (as best I could) in order to just enjoy the story.
Sex On The Moon is an enjoyable read. Having grown up in the era of space exploration, it was interesting to get an "insider's" view into one facet of NASA. As for Thad Roberts, hopefully he's learned a lesson and been able to piece his life back together.
But moon rocks?
Thad, what the heck were ya' thinkin'?!
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2011
An inside look at NASA, stolen moon rocks, an international team working to recover the goods, sex, interns, prison....how did this story turn out to be boring? Whatever the reason, boring is how it turned out.
Maybe there just wasn't enough material to fill a book about this case. Plus, in spite of his desire to make himself into a larger-than-life character, Thad really isn't one. Instead he's more of a pathetic loser who throws away everything he worked for and disappoints so many people in an attempt to re-make himself.
Dull, slow, only occasionally interesting, and the only characters you really care for get treated badly.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This latest Mezrich book is a 308-page 'con-job' - the entire story can be, and should have been, told in one paragraph. Thad Roberts is an aspiring NASA astronaut with weak ethics. While at the University of Utah UofU) he steals some rocks, then gets accepted as a student researcher at NASA's Johnson Space Center where his marriage falls apart, he becomes enamored with two new lovelies and gets them to help him steal a 600+ lb. safe containing moon rocks being studied by his mentor, Dr. Robert Gibson. Predictably he's caught trying to sell the loot, loses his girlfriends (they're sentenced to probation), he does 8 1/2 years, and then receives a cool reception from the UofU upon asking to return and complete his studies.
The outcome is as predictable as tomorrow's sunrise, given that NASA is the only legitimate source of moon rocks and NASA doesn't sell or give them away. The outcome is even more predictable when Thad tries drumming up interest in his ill-gotten loot by emailing a reputable rock collector in Belgium who promptly notifies the FBI. All the rocks are recovered, though Roberts' mentor loses some 30 years of research notes. Dr. Gibson emerges as the second of the story's two 'stars,' showing his and NASA's gratitude for the Belgian rock collector's assistance by traveling to one of their club meetings and giving an expert presentation on moon rocks.
Final Score: Mezrich - 0, Roberts - 0, Dr. Gibson + 1, and the Belgian rock collector + 1.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
"Sex on the Moon" relates the story of NASA intern Thad Roberts, who tried to steal priceless moon rocks from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Well, he actually did steal them, but not for long.
I usually don't have a problem with stories about anti-heroes or people who make mistakes, but for some reason this book kind of annoyed me. First, Thad Roberts leaves his smart, supportive, pretty wife for a cute NASA intern, all because his wife had the temerity to want to talk about HER job every once in a while, or wanted Thad to occasionally socialize with her friends and colleagues. Imagine! Oh, yes, I should also mention that Thad's wife was a successful fashion model. What a rough road he had, no wonder he left her!
Secondly, Thad totally dismisses the value of his gold-standard NASA internship to plan the heist of moon rocks securely stored at the NASA facility where he worked. Incidentally, these are the moon rocks that- in case people forget- were procured by selfless astronauts taking on impossibly dangerous odds to further mankind's knowledge of the universe. But Thad needed some extra cash and a few thrills, so what's the big deal, right?
Finally, on top of the above annoyances, the heist itself generates no suspense whatsoever, due to a parallel plotline- that unfolds right alongside Thad's scatterbrained operation- that reveals that the FBI was aware of Thad's plan almost from the beginning. So I knew that, despite any meager engagement I had with Thad's plan (I tried to be interested on at least a technical level, despite my disapproval), the FBI was just waiting for the right moment to crash the party. Which is what it did. What a shock!
Oh, the title of the book? It references a scene after the heist, when Thad seduces his naive girlfriend- yes, he drew her into his plan, too- on a hotel room bed, with several of the moon rocks placed beneath them under the mattress cover. "Sex on the Moon", get it? Anyway, her future at NASA was eventually ruined, too. But at least she had a romantic adventure with wonderful Thad first.
Did the book have any plusses? Sure. Author Ben Mezrich has a smooth, engaging storytelling style, and I enjoyed learning a little about all the behind-the-scenes activity at NASA. But learning about NASA only made me more annoyed at Thad Roberts' plan to hurt and embarrass the agency.
I should also be fair and point out that the book doesn't promote what Thad did as harmless or right, or anything like that. But, as most of the book relates Thad's viewpoint on things, and Thad tends to go easy on himself, the book does somewhat romanticize and glamourize Thad's actions, and minimize the wrongness of what he did.
So, my own take is that if you can get past the generally unlikable central character and the lack of suspense in the heist plotline, you might get a modest bit of entertainment out of this book. Just don't hope for the moon and stars.
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2011
I've read most of Ben Mezrich's books and have to say that I always enjoy the story. He writes about fascinating characters and situations and I've never been hung up on the fact that Mr. Mezrich creates his own dialogue when one isn't available through interviews or research. Either way, I found myself thinking that Sex On The Moon just didn't have much depth. It took me no time at all to get thru the book and it left me wanting more. For one of the most anticipated books of the summer, it leaves me a bit disappointed.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2011
Like the author's previous books, the story has an entertaining premise.
Unfortunately, the story is ultimately shallow and unsatisfying.
Protagonist Thad is an immature, selfish wastrel cloaked in a thin veneer of self doubt and troubled up-bringing which fail dismally to make him likable.
The book tries to convince us that he's a sort of tragic, conflicted, ultimately lovable anti-hero scamp in the mould of catch-me-if-you-can. But it doesn't really stick.
As a result it becomes sort of like reading the triumphal adventures of the neighborhood bully and being expected to cheer as he steals some more lunch money.
To give gravitas to a fairly silly crime the author goes on and on about the 'street value' of the items - with ever more ridiculous estimates -'close to a trillion' at one point. The other characters in the story are underdeveloped and or wooden.
For all that, it has a breezy narrative and in the main was ok as a (very) light summer read.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2011
The writing was quite childish and overwrought. The characters were not well developed and their motivations were not well done at all. In fact, they often contradicted within the book. Thad Roberts, the main character went from finally finding his home at NASA one paragraph, to just being a pretender in another.
Definitely not worthy of a purchase and only worth a read if you can read extremely fast and just want to know some more information about the heist itself. Not that I can say this book is completely credible anyway, because it's all based on interviews with the people involved, court documents and unnamed sources but uses fake dialogue.
The worst part is the book misses the most interesting part to me, which is Thad Roberts history with his parents and the relationship that that had on his subsequent crime. Anyone who is disowned by his parents for having pre-marital sex would likely have some psychological issues tied up with sex and love with the opposite sex. And it's clear that he did judging by the fact that he threw his future away for a woman he barely knew. Add on to that that he had sex with her on top of some moon rocks. But the book doesn't even go into this connection. When I first heard about this story I thought, who on earth would do something this ridiculous and for what possible reason? Then after hearing about his past with his parents I wanted to know more, but this book didn't provide anything on that.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2011
Ugh. I really expected to like this book -- it seemed like a fascinating story, and I was very interested in learning more. I wasn't expecting it to be high literature or anything but I was expecting something at least entertaining. Instead, the execution is just awful, awful, awful. Mezrich's writing is trite, cliched, and full of fake drama. It also borders on hero-worship of Roberts, who doesn't seem at all worthy of the rosy cast Mezrich gives him. It's clear that Roberts was basically Mezrich's only source, and Mezrich never questions anything he was told by the thief, despite the fact that an awful lot of it reads as bad adolescent boy fantasy. This book could have been SO much better if Mezrich had actually talked to anyone other than Roberts, and made an effort to tell a balanced story. This story had amazing potential, all of which remained unrealized in Mezrich's hands.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2012
This is a review of the audiobook version.
I am a big fan of Ben Mezritch having read several of his books. I decided to lighten my ride to work each day by relaxing and listening to Casey Affleck narrate this book.
Since I have listened to hundreds of audiobooks over the last few years I was not prepared for what came through the car speakers.
Casey Affleck, whatever his other talents may be, is possibly the worst narrator of an audiobook I have ever heard. Imagine a teenager whose voice is cracking, reading a book for you in a whiny monotone with no attempt to even change his delivery when the characters change. Elderly men, young kids, men, women, anyone you care to name; they are all expressed with the identical prepubescent voice reminiscent of someone who has snorted too much airplane glue.
He totally ruined what might have been an enjoyable experience for me. After the first CD I just gave up and listened to another audiobook which, thankfully, had a professional narrator.
It was the difference between night and day.