A challenging but immensely rewarding read.




An environmental historian blends the past, present and future of exploration in a unique account of the Voyager space program.

Pyne (Life Sciences/Arizona State Univ.; Voice and Vision: A Guide to Writing History and Other Serious Nonfiction, 2009, etc.) sets for himself a difficult task—vivifying for the general reader the 30-year journey of an unmanned spacecraft. After all, our interest in exploration is often inextricable from our fascination with the explorers themselves. The author ingeniously overcomes this built-in narrative disadvantage, where the technology itself is the exploring agent, by placing the Voyager mission—two spacecraft designed to visit the outer planets of our solar system and beyond—squarely within the context of several hundred years of exploration. The International Geophysical Year of 1957–58, a project designed to take the scientific temperature of the Earth, oceans and space, kicked off the Third Great Age of Discovery, which arose from quickened national rivalries inspiring an unusual period of expansion. Previous Ages of Discovery featured all manner of extraordinary achievements, and each culminated in a Grand Tour—e.g., Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe, von Humboldt’s Latin American expedition—that perfectly captured the era’s ambition. For our own Age, Voyager is that venture, a crowning gesture of remarkable cultural consequence. Pyne reports fully on the program’s genesis and evolution, Voyager’s discoveries and its signal encounters with the asteroid belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and interstellar space. The author’s acuity and interpretive skill come most impressively to bear when he regularly suspends the narrative, “cruising” he calls it, to draw striking connections between Voyager’s journey and expeditions of the past. The many parallels—political, technological, social, economic, military, scientific, even spiritual—fix Voyager’s place in the constellation of discovery, even as Pyne distinguishes the mission and our age from its ancestors.

A challenging but immensely rewarding read.

Pub Date: July 26, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-670-02183-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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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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