A delightful slice of NASA life.



The inner workings of NASA through an enthusiastic account of an interplanetary probe to a distant moon.

Although space travel hasn’t enraptured the U.S. since the 1969 Apollo moon landing, NASA continues to accomplish great feats, and more are in the offing, including this book’s subject: the 2024 launch of a multibillion-dollar spacecraft to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa. To puzzled readers, journalist and Army veteran Brown explains that the Galileo probe, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003, discovered a liquid water ocean beneath Europa’s icy surface. Life requires liquid water, and despite a torrent of probes and landers, none has turned up on Mars. No president since Lyndon Johnson has shown a genuine interest in space travel, a feeling shared by Congress with rare exceptions, including one of Brown’s unlikely heroes, a conservative from Texas. Furthermore, when Congress doles out tax money, anything involving astronauts takes priority. Even space buffs struggle to name a discovery produced by the manned space station, but robotic probes often return spectacular discoveries. Despite this, unmanned programs struggle for attention in this “astronaut-led, astronaut-centric organization,” but its scientists and engineers contain many brilliant workaholics. Brown delivers breathless biographies of a dozen as he describes their effort, now passing 20 years, to explore Europa. Since the 1990s, they have seen several proposals approved and then killed, but the Europa Clipper mission will probably happen for the only reason space programs happen: Congress approved the money. Readers will roll their eyes but keep reading as Brown engagingly describes the cutthroat NASA political landscape, in which Mars gets the most attention, leaving advocates of other planets fuming. Leading-edge technology usually goes over budget, but Congress rarely makes up the difference, so high priority space programs that run short extract money from other programs and sometimes get them cancelled. Few experts expect the 2024 launch date to hold, but some time after 2030, we may find evidence of fish on Europa.

A delightful slice of NASA life.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-265442-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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