A narrative rocket-powered by experience, intelligence, knowledge, and gratitude.



An engineer and software manager who worked on both the Apollo and space shuttle flights rehearses some behind-the-scenes activity during the decades he worked with NASA.

In his debut, Clemons, now a freelance writer and speaker, begins with some background—e.g., John F. Kennedy’s vow to send Americans to the moon; the author’s youthful love of science fiction—and then proceeds chronologically through some of NASA’s great successes and failures. The author is adept at explaining complicated technical concepts by employing quotidian analogues (how a “free-return trajectory” is similar to tossing a ball), so general readers will have little trouble navigating his pages. He is also generous with praise for his colleagues, celebrating their contributions, and he offers startling reminders: NASA was still basically in the slide-rule, pre-computer era when they first landed men on the moon in July 1969. One of the most gripping segments deals with Apollo 13 (“Houston, we’ve had a problem”) and the eponymous movie, which Clemons discusses flatteringly. (He also alludes to the recent film Hidden Figures.) During the shuttle missions, the author worked on the software, a massive undertaking that he describes in rich detail; he notes how virtually impossible it is to create error-free computer code and how close to that objective the shuttle engineers came. He deals, too, with the great NASA tragedies: the Apollo 1 fire, the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Clemons writes only briefly about his personal life—his marriage, fatherhood, divorce, and eventual change of career when he left the space program in the mid-1980s. These events and experiences are mostly breaths he takes before diving back into his primary narrative. In a lengthy appendix, he deals with some common questions and dismisses as “silly stories” the rumors that the moon landings were faked.

A narrative rocket-powered by experience, intelligence, knowledge, and gratitude.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8130-5602-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. Press of Florida

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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