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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book about the American space pioneers
This is primarily the story of Project Mercury and its seven astronauts who became media celebrities during the golden age of space travel, when NASA had an almost unlimited budget to catch and then beat the Soviets in the Space Race.
As if this is not enough, the book touches on Chuck Yeager's exploits in the X-1 when breaking the sound barrier in October 1947 and...
Published on 2 July 2001

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too folksy for my taste.
Wolfe focuses on the culture and social mores that surrounded the Mercury space programme. He is excellent at developing the characters so that they come vividly to life. There are times when I wondered how real the characters were - they almost fitted Wolfe's angle on the story too well which left me asking how closely Wolfe's perspective matched those of others. But...
Published on 3 Jun 2010 by Blencathra


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too folksy for my taste., 3 Jun 2010
By 
Blencathra (West Yorkshire.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
Wolfe focuses on the culture and social mores that surrounded the Mercury space programme. He is excellent at developing the characters so that they come vividly to life. There are times when I wondered how real the characters were - they almost fitted Wolfe's angle on the story too well which left me asking how closely Wolfe's perspective matched those of others. But Wolfe does tell the story really well. Except that, after a while, I got rather weary of the folksy, chatty style, in particular when recounting some of the key incidents, when very specific perspectives were taken, thus leaving me with more questions than answers.

I can understand why it is generally regarded as a classic, and why so many people rate it so highly, but it just didn't quite work for me. I'm glad to have read it, but won't be rushing back to it in the future (I actually preferred the film - not a common occurrence).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book about the American space pioneers, 2 July 2001
By A Customer
This is primarily the story of Project Mercury and its seven astronauts who became media celebrities during the golden age of space travel, when NASA had an almost unlimited budget to catch and then beat the Soviets in the Space Race.
As if this is not enough, the book touches on Chuck Yeager's exploits in the X-1 when breaking the sound barrier in October 1947 and also gives an account of the achievements of the X-15 Spaceplane and its pilots.
The book tells of the hero worship that the Mercury Seven and their wives received (especially John Glenn and Alan Shepherd), including ticker tape parades, meeting the President and addressing Congress. This is hard to believe today in an age when we take space travel for granted. But it also goes into detail of the mission foul ups of Scott Carpenter and Gus Grissom and tells many anecdotes of great interest that Wolfe obtained by interviewing flight and non flight members of Project Mercury. A great book, I cannot fault it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True heroism, 12 July 2007
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
The Right Stuff: 'A man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness, to pull it back in the last yawning gap - and then go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day ... '

This is one of the most unusual and best non-fiction books I have ever read. The film version of this book is also ground breaking. I love this book.

One thought expressed in the book, and the film, is when someone says the astronauts are only doing what a monkey can do (because eveything is automated) but as Yeager points out: A monkey does not know he is sitting on a rocket that could explode at any moment, unlike the astronaut.

In an age we have footballers portrayed as heroes simply for kicking a ball or advertising perfume, and soldiers wanting to sue for stress, it is refreshing to read about true heroes in an age when celebrity actually meant something.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most wonderful stuff, 23 Jan 2006
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
Tom Wolfe is an outstanding writer, and this book shows him at his best. Wolfe recounts the careers of the first US astronauts, from their early hell-raising lives as test pilots to the first space flights and beyond, in exquisite, entertaining prose. His descriptions, whether of a crashed pilot "burned beyond recognition", or the minute-by-minute experience of the first astronauts in the Mercury programme, are mesmerising. Perhaps his greatest achievement is to describe the astronauts (eg the Peugeot-driving John Glenn) both as heroic, larger-than-life figures and as real, believable human beings.
Summary: an extraordinary book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ever wondered why man landed on the Moon?, 16 Jan 2001
By A Customer
A fascinating account of the lives and events of the test pilots and their families during the American Mercury space program. Mr Wolfe details the prevailing mood of the country at the time and the political expediency that financed such an ambitious undertaking. This is a very easily readable book, avoiding delving too deeply into technical matters and containing an appropriate amount of dry humour. Particularly intriguing is the interaction between the fast-paced, energetic astronauts and the bland, dispassionate scientists. Some of the anecdotes have most likely received some embellishment, either from Mr Wolfe himself or by those recounting the tales to him, but this does not detract at all from making it a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A flying experience, 15 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
Tom Wolfe at his best! The work put into writing a book like this is immense, I think Wolfe used six years. It shows. No need to be interested in aircrafts or space, reading this book will make you soar into the blue sky!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating STUFF, 18 Aug 2009
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
"The Mercury Project". Words that should be guaranteed to stir the blood and stiffen the sinews, but somehow the astonishing achievements of the 1960s American space programme seems to have lost its ability to inspire admiration in recent years, and so reading a book like this will hopefully restore some of that awe. And our awe is truly what they deserve, not because they were necessarily the nicest of people, but because of what they were prepared to do in the name of human endeavour and progress. Fortune and glory might have played some part in their motivations, but when you read about what they experienced and what they were prepared to do, surely very few would begrudge them that.

In the tradition of the true-life novel we follow the characters from their early years as trainees through the trials and humiliations of the selection process and on towards their personal triumphs in the space programme right up until the end of the Mercury programme. Alongside this, the fortunes of other no less brave (but largely unregarded) test pilots are contrasted, as well as the wretched experiences of the wives of great men.

It also has a lot to say about the birth of "Celebrity Culture" with regard to the exalted status the original seven Mercury astronauts immediately received in the American public view of the time, despite having at that time done little more than volunteer and attend a press conference.

Fabulously well written, THE RIGHT STUFF is a very satisfying read and is rightly considered a modern classic. Fascinating stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rarely do I spend my money so well, 22 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
Rarely do I spend my money so well. 'The Right Stuff' is easily worth ten times the amount I paid for it, both in terms of its informative value, as well as in the level of entertainment it provides. And 'entertainment' is definitely the right word. This is an easy, amusing, light-hearted, sometimes even humorous piece of writing. Don't be deceived, however. When the author deals with life threatening situations (of which there were plenty), he makes you acutely aware that this is no joking matter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Stuff, 30 May 2009
By 
Mr. S. D. Halliday "Assistant Professor of Ec... (Northampton, MA, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
Whenever I mention this book to someone I seem to get the response, "It was such a great movie." Well, even if the movie was good, it can't be as good as the book.

Wolfe commands 'the long sentence' (OK not Joyce-length, but long enough) while maintaining rhythm and pace, and driving you on to whatever comes next. The Right Stuff retells the stories of US space flight's early days, of the worship of those who became astronauts, of how they came from flight jockey stock. Wolfe shows us how the astronauts' history motivated them to do as much as they could to incorporate piloting into the space program, when what many scientists wanted instead was rats pushing levers.

The book holds importance because of its relevance as an historical text, and because of its literariness. Wolfe's writing makes what might have been just a somewhat interesting story into a mythic tale of courage, training, perseverance, and 'the right stuff'. William Zinsser refers to the book in his On Writing Well, where he marvels at Wolfe's abilities with the long sentence. Zinsser quotes Wolfe as the exception to the 'brief and clear' general rule. Zinsser was correct, Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff is the exception that proves the rule.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars all-time fave, 15 April 2003
I was inspired to re-read this book recently by the BBC's Best Read survey. I got to thinking which was my favourite book, and narrowed it down to Catch 22 and this one by Tom Wolfe, which are the two I have gone back to most often over the years.
The Right Stuff is the story of the seven US Mercury astronauts, in their day the most famous men in the world, now - except Glenn - largely forgotten. It is brilliantly told in a style which exists in a grey area between journalism and the novel, developing a range of characters which are so precisely and subtly drawn that you feel you know them. The true brilliance of the book, though, lies in its main theme, that of the stuff itself, and the unspoken hierarchies and competitiveness which evolve in any masculine arena, not just this ultra-jock context.
Clever, insightful, captivating - a marvellous book you can read over and over again.
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The Right Stuff
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (Paperback - 17 Oct 2005)
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