Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating because the subject matter is, 20 April 2009
This review is from: First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong (Paperback)
Space geeks will adore this book; the non-scientific will sometimes struggle. This is a book packed with scientific, military and aeronautical details that can at times be rather bewildering. The detail of research is verging on the obsessive. But then the point of this authorised biography was to set the records straight (as far as possible - and Armstrong himself read through the various drafts to check facts, but not to change opinions or impressions).

But if you persevere through the occasional fog of stats and details, there is much to enjoy about this. In particular, the few chapters describing (almost minute by minute) the heroic Apollo 11 flight are gripping. One of those instances where knowing what happens doesn't diminish the excitement (especially after knowing what happened to Apollo 1 and Apollo 13). There are also (a few) fascinating insights into the inner-workings and politics of NASA - as well as the rivalries between the various astronauts: eg the impact on Buzz Aldrin of being the SECOND man on the moon. But Armstrong seemed to float in orbit above all of those problems and was just driven 'to get the job done'.

What is striking is how hard Armstrong is a person actually to get to know. An incredibly reserved and private (though not necessarily shy) person he is - reading this book won't necessarily help one to understand what makes the man tick. But then that's probably because few ever have completely. He clearly suffered horribly when his daughter died and his first marriage disintegrated - but they seem to have driven him further into himself and his work, rather than to other people.

So I enjoyed this book, even though i glazed over from time to time because of the pervasive detail and less than felicitous prose. This is an important record of an extraordinary life.
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Mark Meynell "quaesitor"
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