2019 year Reviews

The Moon: A History for the Future

Oliver Morton, The Economist Books, 2019, 333pp;

hardback £20.00/$28.00,

ISBN 978-1-78816-254-8

It’s great – and it’s important - to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first steps of men from planet Earth on the surface of another planetary body…but even the geekiest space nut can choke on a banquet of technical overviews and historical analyses. So it’s always good to freshen the pallet with something a little different.

It is difficult to nail the genre of this book, which the blurb itself refers to as “wide-ranging”. It’s part science and technology, part exploration, part historic, part poetic…and even the design of the chapters has a slightly schizophrenic feel with its alternating fonts. Many will find the interruption of the narrative by shorter factual passages off-putting (much like the poetic intermissions in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath), but those who know about the Moon will simply skip them.

Oliver Morton, the author of this offering, has long been an objective and somewhat ‘removed’ commentator on space matters, but in this book he allows himself an autobiographical topping and tailing of the text. In his concluding chapter, we find that, in 2016, he admitted to a friend that he’d never seen a rocket launch; he subsequently viewed a Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral that made him “feel different about such undertakings”. However, he could hardly be said to have ‘drunk the Cool-Aid’ regarding Elon Musk: “He is also a prick”, opines Morton, though “Not an irredeemable arsehole…”. “Mr Bezos”, on the other hand “is clearly more disciplined than Mr Musk”, he says.

Whether or not you enjoy the author’s opinionated style, which sometimes exposes the technophobe within, this book does succeed in clearing the pallet for the next course of engineering and technology texts.

Mark Williamson, Space Technology Consultant, Cumbria, UK

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