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Book Review: THE APOLLO MURDERS by Chris Hadfield

It's 1973 and NASA is preparing for their final Apollo mission to the moon. But this mission has a darker objective. The Soviet Union is about to launch a secret space station capable of spying on America, and Apollo 18 might be the only chance to stop it. As the astronauts countdown to lift off, a deadly accident reveals that not everyone is quite who they were thought to be.

THE APOLLO MURDERS, written by Col. Chris Hadfield, is a novel that crosses the boundaries between alternative history and science fiction. The book is rich in historical and technical detail, covering a broad range of topics. You'll find a number of fictionalized versions of historical figures within the book's pages, like Astronaut Al Shepard, President Richard Nixon, Soviet scientist Vladimir Chelomey, and CIA Director James Schlesinger. Even the Soviet space station, Almaz, was historically accurate. Hadfield does a fantastic job of incorporating the historical context into his fictional story.

The exhaustive technical detail in THE APOLLO MURDERS, however, often brought the narrative to a halt. Hadfield takes great care to ensure that the reader understands how things work--from high-performance jets, to rover and satellite technology, to NASA and Apollo culture, and even the intricacies of space craft re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. Although interesting, it sometimes felt more like a graduate level lecture than a novel. As an example, Hadfield spent an entire chapter just explaining every sensation an astronaut felt during launch.

The story line was entertaining up to a point. But the ending left a number of loose ends, and felt rushed, leaving me to wonder what actually happened and why. I found it ironic that the book title includes "murders", but I felt there was really only one death in the book that could truly be classified as a murder. All in all, THE APOLLO MURDERS was decent book, but it was not enough for me to call it a true classic by any stretch of the imagination.


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