Top positive review
Informative, exciting, packed with action, suspense, science and history
Reviewed in Canada on October 19, 2021
This was an exciting, thrill-packed Cold War thriller. Its author, Chris Hadfield, imparts his extraordinary knowledge and experience, bringing atmosphere, authenticity, and credibility to the plot. The gripping, action-packed story is infused with science, technology, politics, espionage, space history, murder, and intrigue with vividly drawn believable characters.
Author, Chris Hadfield, is a much-decorated Canadian astronaut, a former fighter pilot, engineer, spacewalker, served in both the American and Russian space programs, and Commander of the International Space Station. Readers who have not followed the history of the Apollo space program and the space stations may recognize Hatfield may recognize him from the video where he played guitar and sang David Bowie's Space Oddity while floating in 0 Gravity in the ISS. This was featured in news reports at the time and can still be viewed on YouTube. He was active in the space program from 1992 until 2013.
I find it difficult to categorize this action-packed novel. This is not so much in the science fiction genre but a historical and suspenseful journey into an alternate past involving a fictional journey of Apollo 18 in 1973. The Apollo program actually ended with Apollo 17, but the story imagines what happens on a subsequent mission to the moon. The writing is filled with an overload of scientific detail and technical descriptions that will appeal more to the space enthusiast than to the casual reader of thrillers. However, the story is so suspenseful, intense, action-packed, and cinematic within a plausible, realistic storyline that it should keep most readers entranced.
A leading character is Kaz Zemeckis, a flight controller at Houston. He is assigned to oversee the mission of three astronauts to the moon and ensure their safety from Mission Control. Kaz missed his goal for going into space when he lost an eye in a training accident. Shortly before blast-off, the astronaut in charge dies in an accident, or was it accidental? The leading backup astronaut replaces him. One astronaut is to stay in the vehicle, circle the moon, and await the two walking on the moon's surface. Due to unfortunate circumstances, this will not be the two originally assigned to the task. At the last minute, the scientific exploration is hastily changed into a military one. The Russians have placed a high-resolution spy satellite in orbit and also a moon rover looking for valuable minerals on the surface. The astronauts are now ordered to disable both items in order to keep the Russians from advancing in the space race.
Kaz is suspicious that one of the astronauts is not what he pretends to be. Surrounding him in Mission Control are many real characters whose names I recognized from the past. Also, at the White House are actual historical people, all seamlessly blended into the story. At the end of the book, I was surprised that most of the characters, except for the fictional Kaz, were real people, and the Russian spy satellite and their moon rover were actually in place at the time.
In the high-tension storyline, there are startling encounters, dangers galore from the Russians, and one aboard Apollo 18 may be a murderer. Events do not go as planned, and both the Russians and the Americans are determined to retrieve an exotic, rare mineral from the moon. The Russians are angry that Apollo 18 is trying to disable their space equipment. Back at Mission Control, the sheriff and others are helping Kaz investigate the astronaut's backgrounds and try to keep on top of the changing events in space. What will the outcome be? Will the crew of Apollo 18 succeed in their mission and get home safely? Recommended to those who want adventure, history of early space exploration and moon landings, espionage, and find the technical details enhance the reality of this dramatic story.
I was glued to the pages, except for a short break to watch Captain Kirk returning from space in Jeff Bezos's space vehicle.