The events and near events of the last twenty years are the launching pad for Pierre Boulle's new novel so that even at its end, when a man on the moon is a real one, the likelihood that all this may happen here is closer to hard fact than science fiction. In this story, and in many of his others, the idea's the thing and it opens in Peenemunde in 1942 where a group of the Fuhrer's scientists accomplish the firing of the first V-2. But at the end of the war they disperse; some to Russia, Dr. Kanashima to Japan, and one Dr. Stern, an equally insatiable intellect, to Los Alamos and subsequently Cape Canaveral. The race to the moon becomes a tri-power political rivalry although Stern, in the U.S., gets less support than he needs. Still he hopes to win and so do the Russians until Dr. Kanashima, all alone, make the high jump and creates a garden there before his inevitable death.... This trajectory in fiction form is written with the intelligence one expects, less irony perhaps, but a facile command of the material even though Boulle has not attempted to personalize it to any extent.