A welcome addition to the literature of space exploration.

A vigorous exploration of the Space Age, a frontier oddly befitting Wild West historian Donovan (The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo—and the Sacrifice that Forged a Nation, 2012, etc.).

The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Apollo 11 on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step” pronouncement. That history and the long chain of efforts leading up to the landing have been well-documented, not least by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff. Even so, Dallas-based historian Donovan finds fresh things to say about the events—as when, for instance, he recounts Buzz Aldrin’s constant lobbying to be the first to set foot on the moon, a campaign that his peers found tedious but not entirely unseemly. That Armstrong was chosen to lead and then kept in that role, Donovan writes, strongly reflects a priority: “NASA wanted to make a clear statement about the non-military nature of the landing and of the American space program as a whole,” and Armstrong was both a civilian and senior in the hierarchy, making him a natural choice. Aldrin was privately devastated but put up a brave front. In Donovan’s hands, pioneering space scientist Wernher von Braun gets some deliverance from the Tom Lehrer school of lampoonery: True, he’d worked for the Nazis, but he also made remarks about the Hitler regime critical enough to be charged with treason, interrupting his perhaps unlikely playboy lifestyle. Just so, Donovan turns to small but meaningful episodes that speak volumes: NASA’s grudging addition of various lunar experiments “for the science guys”; Aldrin’s ministering of Communion by means of a tiny vial of sacramental wine that he smuggled aboard for the purpose; the fact that only by landing there could we be sure that “the moon’s color…was various shades of gray.” The author closes with the hopeful thought that after a long hiatus, we may soon be heading back into space.

A welcome addition to the literature of space exploration.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-34178-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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