Recovers for a new generation the thrill of a pioneer quest and the spirit of an age that already seems like ancient history.




A genial look at the earliest days of the space race.

With the 1957 launch of Sputnik, the first man-made object to orbit the earth, the Soviet Union delivered arguably the most severe psychological blow of the Cold War. Keeping other failed attempts quiet, the Russians quickly followed up this propaganda victory with two more satellites, one carrying the camera-friendly dog Laika. With a light and companionable touch, Pulitzer Prize–winner D’Antonio (Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, 2006, etc.) examines a shaken America’s answer to this challenge. Predictably, ambitious politicians criticized Eisenhower for allowing America to lag. Competitive military services squabbled among themselves while U.S. scientists went quietly to work. Chief among them were dogged James Van Allen, discoverer of radiation belts surrounding the globe; intense Nicholas Christofilos, responsible for the first big experiment in space, albeit one requiring the detonation of atomic bombs; and brilliant Wernher von Braun, the erstwhile German rocketeer so indispensable that the government quietly airbrushed his Nazi past. (For more on this, see Michael J. Neufeld’s Von Braun, 2007.) The story’s charm, however, lies in D’Antonio’s evocation of the average American’s response to the dawning space age, which makes a nice contrast to Matthew Brzezinski’s big-man approach in Red Moon Rising (2007). The public evinced a mixture of dread—it’s no accident that this period brought a rash of UFO sightings—and excitement that ranged from the provincial boosterism of rocket-building Huntsville, Ala., to the wide-open, boomtown atmosphere of Cocoa Beach and rocket-firing Cape Canaveral, Fla. Within two years America caught up, launching four satellites and one monkey named Gordo. Ahead lay the formation of NASA, the beginning of the manned space program and momentous triumphs almost obliterating the fumbled beginning, when the failure of a Vanguard rocket launch allowed critics to cry, “Flopnik.”

Recovers for a new generation the thrill of a pioneer quest and the spirit of an age that already seems like ancient history.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9431-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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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