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Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race Hardcover – September 23, 2004
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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Leonov's account is written in the very generic style of someone whose words have been translated from another language. That's understandable, since Leonov doesn't speak English. Unfortunately, Scott's account reads exactly the same. This book tells the stories of two men who flew combat missions over enemy territory, performed dangerous test flight work at the dawn of the jet age, and ultimately, rode intercontinental ballistic missiles into space. But precious little of that excitement comes through in this book. The excitement of those experiences is literally lost in translation.
There are also problems not just with style, but also accuracy. On page 127, Toomey, writing as Scott, states that John Glenn flew the "first American manned spaceflight". That must have been a great surprise to astronauts Al Shepard and Gus Grissom, both of whom flew into space in 1961 while Glenn wouldn't fly until the following year. Of course, every astronaut would know which astronaut flew first, which raises a much larger question. Did Scott and Leonov even read the finished book that bears their names? And if a book isn't accurate even with basic facts, how can the reader trust the information that isn't public knowledge?
Toomey also attributes Pete Conrad's famous quote and personal motto "If you can't be good, be colorful" to Neil Armstrong. I've seen this quote attributed to Conrad literally dozens of times, never to Armstrong. (Armstrong, incidentally, was known to be good but could not be accused of being colorful.) This is almost certainly an instance where Toomey got her facts mixed up, and did not have the depth of knowledge about the subject matter to realize her mistake. These examples (and more) indicate to me that Ms. Toomey interviewed Scott and Leonov for the book, then filled in a lot of blanks on her own. Sometimes she gets it right, sometimes not.
In the end, I just didn't trust that I was getting the real first-hand account that I would expect from an autobiography. For the time invested in this book, the reader's time would be better spent with one of the other outstanding books about the space race. "Carrying the Fire" by Mike Collins comes to mind, as does "A Man on the Moon" by Chaikin, or for a look at the Soviet effort, "Red Star in Orbit" by Oberg. Compared to those classics, I found Ms. Toomey's effort disappointing.
The book reads very well and has some nice pictures. No boring parts, it's a page burner. I read it in 2 1/3 days. We see each man growing up and becoming tops in their profession.
David Scott middle class, graduated West Point and MIT goes into the Air Force. We see him becoming a test pilot at Edwards Air Force base and his experiences with his mentor Chuck Yeager. We see his near death experience with Neil Armstrong in Gemini 8,later Apollo 9 and his moonwalk as commander of Apollo15 and all the great rock samples found and brought back. Plus they had a hell of fun on that rover. Even though Scott did nothing criminally wrong with "Postal Covers" based on Apollo 15, INMO we see his lack of proper judgement to even get involved and allowing NASA to take a black public eye. NASA does not support Scott and hangs him out to dry. As he retires from the Air Force and NASA we see his later business deals and the interesting companies he helped start.
We see my favorite Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov from a large very poor family growing up in the USSR. Even as a small child he had an interest in art and becomes a great space artist. (If I hit the lotto I'd like to buy one of his smaller paintings).Many times Alexei's family was so poor that they had little to eat and Alexei had no shoes to wear.He is so proud one day the government gives out its ration and he gets a new pair of shoes ( girl's shoes but he don't care). We see his acceptance into the military and becoming a test pilot and selected to become a Cosmonaut. We see his good friendship with Yuri Gagarin and others and his friendship with the Supreme Designer head of the USSR spaceflights. We see his success as the first man to do a spacewalk and being selected to be the Russians first man on the moon before their moon manned space program collapses. We see his raise to a 2 star General before being thrown under the bus and forced to military resign by new Russian political leaders. You can tell Alexei is still bitter about that. But man o man Alexei is still a great artist. Have you seen his works? Great!
We also see a little about Mir, Skylab, talk of the ISS, our shuttle system and Russia's shuttle ( had 1 flight.. program scrubbed). We even see Deke Slayton finally getting his ride in the Apollo/Soyuz rendezvous and Slayton's mistake of hitting a thruster and striking the Soyuz. The Russians kept that quite.We see Deke shaking hands with Leonov and the other Russian inside Apollo/ Soyuz. Also the Russians kept it quite that the Americans were almost killed on reentry due to a poisonous gas leak in the spacecraft.
Lots more great stories, well laid out. The book flows back and forth from Scott's and Leonov's views/stories. Great book 5 stars and highly recommended.
I agree with the others - the ghost writer for Dave Scott could have done a better job, but still - good reading, very vivid descriptions of the Lift-offs, Lunar experience etc.
Leonov lives up to his image and part in space exploration - interesting material and also quite personal - a lot less official than the Soviet officer would normally provide.