Saturday, March 23, 2013

Nixon, you dolt!

I'm going to preface this post with an old meme, mainly because I spent the entire book thinking about it.

Just finished The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick. Which starts with NASA PR guy Jerry Culpepper fielding a strange question about declassified Apollo-era recordings on the 50th anniversary of Eagle's landing on the moon. Among them was a recorded message involving an earlier Apollo astronaut named Myshko saying that he was ready to go down to the surface. (I looked up the missions on Wiki, I think they created a few things for the purpose of the plot.)

From there, we watch as Jerry tries to find the truth among the recordings; as President Cunningham tries to figure out what's going on, since he's being accused of being clueless or deceitful, depending on who gets asked; and Bucky, the billionaire businessman getting ready to do the first private moon landing gets involved, trying to find out why Myshko landed on the far side of the moon in the Cassingham Crater.

The problem with all of this revolves around the idea that, as science fiction, almost everyone is going to jump to the same conclusion I did (which is reflected by bad hair guy above), so the what isn't exactly a surprise. Why Myshko landed, what he found, and why both Cold War USSR and USA covered it up. (Seriously. About halfway through, we find out that photos of that area of the moon had been doctored in both countries' archives.)

What we end up finding out in the process of solving a 50 year old cover up is the real reason for the Watergate break in, why Nixon and the Soviets jointly covered up what was in that crater, and some very interesting insinuations of why such an important event was not recorded in the annals of human history.

While I did not agree with the reasoning behind the cover up, mainly because my frame of reference is a LOT different from those who would be most affected by the reveal, I can understand why the characters took the action that they did.

I liked the writing in this, since it didn't get all that bogged down in things that weren't advancing the plot. Much like a Sherlock Holmes story (which gets referenced towards the end), everything works together to come to a conclusion. I also enjoyed that Bucky wasn't a Rand-ian hero; while he enjoyed the benefits of capitalism, he was also looking at ways to improve the world. (And profit at the same time.)

Despite the occasionally conservative politics that get inserted here and there, what comes across the strongest is a love of exploration and the need for human kind to start going out again. The arguments are there in the text, from overpopulation  to the sheer wonder that comes from setting foot somewhere other than Mother Earth. And, of course, the idea of visiting those who visited us.

I'll point out that I was born in 1975, so I missed Apollo and Skylab, so most of my astronaut desires focused on the Space Shuttle and the idea of being out there. And at its best, this book brought back that sense of wonder from my childhood.