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Back to the Moon Mass Market Paperback – April 11, 2000
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Turing to this entire work of fiction, we see the NASA space program as he does, as an insider. We see fictitious politicians who wish to stop the program and are pretty successful at it. And if Hickam with his knowledge is correct, a solution to many problems of the space program and of us here on earth.
But it is a fiction and we have to suspend our disbelief. Because we do so, when the premise of taking the shuttle in the fashion that it is done, then I have to wonder at the science that is then given us. I am no space expert and I expect many who read this are like me, space hopefuls with no grounding in the realities of space. So when things like the EVA are done, I wonder if it is like Gravity, that just came out. How much is true and how much fiction.
That is only one part of the disappointment, for the cliche of our lead characters past makes it hard to see them as well formed as those of Coal Wood and Hickam's earlier work. Too many characters, including those from the past in back flashes, that we have to spend time with. A few less of those, a few that we could have slimmed down and then worked with the leads more, and that would have elevated this for me.
And perhaps getting rid of an illuminati like other power. Many books use it. When we one day prove the existence of such entities then perhaps seeing them in our fiction will round out such tales.
A once read. For those who like space or love it, a book to get for some of what Hickam has given us you won't find so readily elsewhere.
The good: authoritative and realistic writing on space, space technology, NASA operations and culture. Exciting premise (space shuttle hijacked to go to the moon for valuable minerals).
The bad: It's pretty slow-paced for a thriller, with long on-the-ground and administrative development scenes from multiple parties unfolding long before the action ever gets to space (okay, I know, I wanted realism and I got it--that is what it takes to get to space, after all). The love interest between the lead character, Jack Medaris, and Penny "High Eagle" (really, that's what people call her?!) is just plain silly at times, and even more painful is the "love-note--left-on-the-moon" by a former lover in her childhood, which supposedly provides part of Medaris' motivation to hijack the shuttle, putting many people at risk, and to return to the moon. Also irritating was the all-too-convenient post-script "3 years later" wrap-up where all loose ends are bluntly tied up, like the overlay script just before the credits of a movie where they write what became of each character. The ending overall is sort of a gung-ho NASA space enthusiast wet dream, with everything working out for the main characters and plenty of funding going to all the right places for all the right things.
That said, there's still a lot to like here. Published over a decade ago in 2000, Hickam predicts the demise of the shuttle program (although not for exactly the right reasons) and the rise of the private space industry. Also, as a diver myself, I enjoyed the minor SCUBA connection present in this novel, especially the ending scene with the moon rocks.
* * *
If you're looking for more quality space thrillers (there aren't really a whole lot of them are there?),I've also read these 2 (I won't be reviewing them since I read them a long time ago):
The Return by Buzz Aldrin with John Barnes
Cosmonaut, by Peter McAllister
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