Sunday, July 10, 2005

Book Review

[Ed. Note: This is boring. Skip it. Don't say we didn't warn you.]

Both Sides of the MoonBoth Sides of the Moon - by David Scott & Alexei Leonov

The latest astrobiography to hit my shelves is that of two people doing the same thing at the same time, from different parts of the world. Dave Scott joined NASA as part of the 3rd group of astronauts, while Alexei Leonov was one of the first Soviet cosmonauts to join their program. Both Sides of the Moon tells the stories of their lives, training for missions to go to the moon. Leonov was the first man to perform a spacewalk outside his spacecraft but, due to politics and program failures, did not fly again until the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975. Dave Scott flew with Neil Armstrong on Gemini 8, piloted Apollo 9, and commanded Apollo 15, walking on the moon. The story flips back and forth between the American and Soviet perspectives, maintaining a more or less consistent timeline. It is definitely unique, to read a chapter about one side, then read the following chapter about the other's reaction to the previous event.

Unfortunately there's nothing in the American side of the story that hasn't already been told. The personal details of Scott's life are few and far between, so the reader doesn't grow too attached to him. The story of the Soviet race to the moon has been better documented elsewhere, but the personal details of Leonov's life are the real gem of this book. Leonov recounts his childhood as well as personal stories of Korolev and Gagarin, bringing them to life like no other author to date. Interestingly, Leonov pulls no punches in his criticism of the Soviet program, its leaders, and the pervasive secrecy of the era.

If you're a fan of spaceflight history, read the book for the Leonov side of the moon. The American side has been better told in Wolfe's The Right Stuff, Chaikin's A Man on the Moon, and Collins' Carrying the Fire. Suggested reading for more on the Soviet program includes Harford's Korolev, Oberg's Red Star in Orbit, and Lebedev's Diary of a Cosmonaut.

The Art of HappinessNow Reading: The Art of Happiness


At 4:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice, I will add that book to my space collection :)

At 5:33 AM, Blogger Allie said...

i have "the art of happiness" too ... i might just have to re-read that sucker.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Zelda said...

The Art of Happiness? You know the secret to that. Just pick up a ninja sword and go crazy on child molesterers.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger tinyhands said...

Maryam- The only person I knew would appreciate this. :)

#3ga- If you didn't get anything out of it the first time, would a re-read really help? I'm really enjoying it.

Jeth- I was leaning towards nunchaku. Alas, they're Chinese.

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Allie said...

who says i'm not happy now smartass :)

At 2:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's already on my Amazon wish list ;)

At 11:10 PM, Blogger Sass said...

Looking forward to your review of The Art of Happiness. Are you a Dave Eggers fan by chance?

At 1:44 AM, Blogger tinyhands said...

#3gah! - Not me. I just implied you didn't get anything out of reading the book.

Maryam- I bet I can name a few more you should look into before this one.

Sass- I know the name, but I couldn't name anything he's written. [Quick Amazon lookup] Yes, I have heard of him but obviously haven't read him. I think I was recommended "Staggering Genius" by Amazon once upon a time but haven't gotten around to it.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Sass said...

Heartbreaking work of a staggering genius. It's a must. A very fun book to read. It's one of those books that really does make you laugh out loud.


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