Rick Chesler's Reviews > Back to the Moon

Back to the Moon by Homer Hickam
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Aug 21, 11

Read from December 19, 2010 to August 21, 2011

I was looking for a good space thriller that involved the moon--something realistic and not totally science fiction with now-impossible traveling to other galaxies or planets and such. So seeing that (1) this novel was titled BACK TO THE MOON and (2) was written by real-life former NASA engineer Homer Hickam, Jr. (author of NYT #1 bestseller Rocket Boys), I decided to buy and read it. Overall, I was not disappointed (I'd rate it 3.5 stars if I could).

**********SPOILERS AHEAD***************

The good: authoritative and realistic writing on space, space technology, NASA operations and culture. Exciting premise (space shuttle hijacked to go to the moon for valuable minerals).

The bad: It's pretty slow-paced for a thriller, with long on-the-ground and administrative development scenes from multiple parties unfolding long before the action ever gets to space (okay, I know, I wanted realism and I got it--that is what it takes to get to space, after all). The love interest between the lead character, Jack Medaris, and Penny "High Eagle" (really, that's what people call her?!) is just plain silly at times, and even more painful is the "love-note--left-on-the-moon" by a former lover in her childhood, which supposedly provides part of Medaris' motivation to hijack the shuttle, putting many people at risk, and to return to the moon. Also irritating was the all-too-convenient post-script "3 years later" wrap-up where all loose ends are bluntly tied up, like the overlay script just before the credits of a movie where they write what became of each character. The ending overall is sort of a gung-ho NASA space enthusiast wet dream, with everything working out for the main characters and plenty of funding going to all the right places for all the right things.

That said, there's still a lot to like here. Published over a decade ago in 2000, Hickam predicts the demise of the shuttle program (although not for exactly the right reasons) and the rise of the private space industry. Also, as a diver myself, I enjoyed the minor SCUBA connection present in this novel, especially the ending scene with the moon rocks.
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