An overly breathless yet entertaining account of a pioneering space mission that deserves to be better known.




An exuberant history of a major turning point in early American spaceflight, possibly “the riskiest and most thrilling of all the Apollo missions.”

Man’s first flight to the moon occurred seven months before the actual landing. While not ignored, the Apollo 8 mission has never achieved the iconic status of Apollo 11. This enthusiastic account aims to remind readers of its significance. “This is the best space story of all, I thought, and I wasn’t the only one,” writes journalist Kurson (Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship, 2015, etc.). He notes that after the national horror at the 1957 launch of Sputnik, everyone assumed that the Soviet Union enjoyed technical superiority and was racing to beat us to the moon. In fact, only the latter was true. Kurson opens the narrative in summer 1968 with a top-secret intelligence report that the Soviets might attempt a manned circumlunar flight by year’s end. The Apollo mission was scheduled for 1969, but George Low, one official, maintained that the U.S. could match the Soviets. Some NASA leaders objected, and almost everyone agreed that “Sending Apollo 8 to the moon in December might be the boldest and riskiest and most important mission NASA ever attempted.” Since beating the Soviets to the moon was Apollo’s purpose, it had to be tried. The author offers biographies of those involved, a nuts-and-bolts account of four months of training and the flight itself, which was not without glitches, and digressions into events of 1968 America, torn by strife over civil rights and the Vietnam War. Most readers know how the story turned out, so Kurson strains to generate suspense, and space buffs will quickly realize that this is a journalistic account aimed at a mass audience (clue: the astronauts’ courtships and family lives receive prominent attention).

An overly breathless yet entertaining account of a pioneering space mission that deserves to be better known.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8870-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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