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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most wonderful stuff
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...
Published on 23 Jan 2006 by 100wordreviewer

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2 of 2 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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2 of 2 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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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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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 A must-read for flying and space buffs, 6 April 1999
By A Customer
This tells the true story of how and why the Americans first broke the sound barrier and then launched men into space. It is at its most entertaining when describing the whole test pilot scene at the time, with the day-to-day dangers and appalling fatalities, the financial and other hardships that the families had to put up with, and the hard-living, hard-drinking competitive attitudes that made such a life possible. Added to this is a surreal, tongue-in-cheek description of the overly analytical scientists running the programme, providing an interesting comment on society's unquestioning faith in science and technology in the optimistic 50s. My only hesitancy in fully recommending the book is that it is just too hard to tell exactly how much is true and how much is Wolfe's dramatic interpretation. I can't help feeling that poor old Gus Grissom was a bit of an easy target, and comes out of it with little glory, and I would love to know what John Glenn makes of it. I suppose this is always a problem with "historical" fiction, but this is maybe a bit too recent to take such major liberties.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is my all time favourite book, I have read it so many times, 22 July 2014
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This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
This is my all time favourite book, I have read it so many times. Marvel at the bravery of the seven whos right stuff takes them to the top of the top of the aviation pyramid (even though on Mercury no piloting skills are actually needed - a monkey can do the job). Belly laugh from page to page as the boys leave five gallon urine samples for the nurse, the wifes have all traces of wens, hickies, boil volcanoes, and acne trenches brushed out for the pages of Life magazine. Chortle as Ham the chimp attempts to dismember the white smocks who zap him with bolts to the feet or feed banana pellets as he flys his mission to perfection and the one eyes (photographers) who scream and push to take a picture on his safe return to earth. Watch as the boys, who wish to remain seen as pilots have the mercury capsule renamed as mercury spacecraft, a cosmetic change in name only. Even if you have no interest in early spaceflight this book will enchant you with it's snapshot of America in the 40's to 60's and it's tale of bravery, rivelry, ambition, and comradeship told throughout with rib tickling humour to the fore.
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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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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
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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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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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The return of the hero, 16 July 2004
When I was at university (a couple of years ago) I had a few 'truths' drummed into me. All in a subtle, needling were-not-telling-you-what-to-think-but-this-is-what-you-have-to-think type of way. First, genius doesn't exist. Second, there are no absolute 'truths' (hence the stupid speechmarks that crop up around every other word these days). Third, the Hero was dead.
I was taught that the Hero (as a concept/character type/role model) didn't apply to us these days. It was a macho construction, or something.
The Right Stuff brought back the notion of heroism - that fantastic, boy's own, Indiana Jones, Spiderman, stick the poster on your wall type of heroism that takes you back to your childhood.
And why not? Chuck Yeager, Alan Shepheard, John Glenn. The things these men went through to break the sound-barrier, to get man into space were astounding. They risked their lives every time they got into their aircraft, yet they were cool as snowmen.
Tom Wolfe brings the danger, the adrenaline, the burnt-to-a -cinder plane crashes to life in wonderfully sympathetic, excited, yet brilliantly crafted style.
This is the best of Tom Wolfe's books. Partly, I think, because he actually respected/admired his subject this time around.
I absolutely loved this book. It was so nice to read a romantic book about recent history, rather than the cynical political stuff you get spoonfed at University.
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The Right Stuff
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (Paperback - 17 Oct 2005)
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