Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Moon over Houston
Sex on the Moon relates the story of NASA intern Thad Roberts, who tried to steal priceless moon rocks from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Well, he actually did steal them, but not for long.
I usually don't have a problem with stories about anti-heroes or people who make mistakes, but for some reason this book kind of annoyed me. First, Thad Roberts leaves his smart, supportive, pretty wife for a cute NASA intern, all because his wife had the temerity to want to talk about her job every once in a while, or wanted Thad to occasionally socialize with her friends and colleagues. Imagine! Oh, yes, I should also mention that Thad's wife was a successful fashion model. What a rough road he had, no wonder he left her!
Secondly, Thad totally dismisses the value of his gold-standard NASA internship to plan the heist of moon rocks securely stored at the NASA facility where he worked. Incidentally, these are the moon rocks that- in case people forget- were procured by selfless astronauts taking on impossibly dangerous odds to further mankind's knowledge of the universe. But Thad needed some extra cash and a few thrills, so what's the big deal, right?
Finally, on top of the above annoyances, the heist itself generates no suspense whatsoever, due to a parallel plotline- that unfolds right alongside Thad's scatterbrained operation- that reveals that the FBI was aware of Thad's plan almost from the beginning. So I knew that, despite any meager engagement I had with Thad's plan (I tried to be interested on at least a technical level, despite my disapproval), the FBI was just waiting for the right moment to crash the party. Which is what it did. What a shock!
Oh, the title of the book? It references a scene after the heist, when Thad seduces his naive girlfriend- yes, he drew her into his plan, too- on a hotel room bed, with several of the moon rocks placed beneath them under the mattress cover. "Sex on the Moon", get it? Anyway, her future at NASA was eventually ruined, too. But at least she had a romantic adventure with wonderful Thad first.
Did the book have any plusses? Sure. Author Ben Mezrich has a smooth, engaging storytelling style, and I enjoyed learning a little about all the behind-the-scenes activity at NASA. But learning about NASA only made me more annoyed at Thad Roberts' plan to hurt and embarrass the agency.
I should be fair and point out that the book doesn't promote what Thad did as harmless or right, or anything like that. But, as most of the book relates Thad's viewpoint on things, and Thad tends to go easy on himself, the book does somewhat romanticize and glamourize Thad's actions, and minimize the wrongness of what he did.
So, my own take is that if you can get past the generally unlikable central character and the lack of suspense in the heist plotline, you might get a modest bit of entertainment out of this book. Just don't hope for the moon and stars.
Sex on the Moon is available on Kindle for $12.99.