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One Giant Leap: Neil Armstrong's Stellar…
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One Giant Leap: Neil Armstrong's Stellar American Journey

by Leon Wagener

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The late Neil Armstrong was famously uninterested in talking to historians and would-be biographers. It was only in the last years of his life that he gave interviews to Michelle Evans, whose X-15 Rocket Plane includes a chapter about his work on that program, and James R. Hansen, whose First Man is (and, with Armstrong's death, will forever remain) the definitive biography. One Giant Leap is thus hobbled by Wagener's lack of access to his subject, and rendered irrelevant by the work of Evans and Hansen. It is, however, a far worse book than that.

Wagener offers readers a patchwork of interviews with friends and family members, quotes from newspapers and magazines, and gleanings from NASA records. This magpie-like approach worked adequately -- at the time of publication, when there were no interview-based books -- in the first and last sections of the book, which chronicle Armstrong's life before and after NASA. Even then, however, it broke down in the long mid-section of the book, where the subject was Armstrong's years in the space program. Lacking any insight from Armstrong himself One Giant Leap is a dull rehash of a story told better in dozens of earlier Apollo books.

One Giant Leap is further undone by abominable writing and editing. Wagener tries, relentlessly and unnecessarily, to inject drama by adding adjectives to every noun, adverbs to every verb, and extra clauses to every other sentence. Excusable (depending on your taste) in a master stylist like Norman Mailer (Of A Fire On The Moon) or Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff), it is excruciating coming from Wagener, whose tin ear is evident on every page. Factual errors abound, with flat-out wrong statements about basic physics (navigation lights are said to twinkle in airless space), history (the invention of the turbojet engine is attributed to the wrong person and placed in the wrong year), and engineering (the space shuttle or the never-built X-20 Dyna-Soar might quality of as a "hypersonic glide," but not the X-15). And then there is the cover, which features an astronaut other than Armstrong -- a symbolic merger of the book's blend of cheap drama and cavalier disregard for accuracy.

The decision by the author, editors, or both to omit any form of references, bibliography, or even a complete list of interviewees. Readers interested in the sources of specific details are left with no way to find those sources. Given the numerous factual errors (which would make double-checking essential for anyone with the misbegotten idea of using this book as a reference), this is goes beyond frustrating into outrageous.

I own virtually all the published biographies and memoirs of the Apollo astronauts, and have read most of them. One Giant Leap is, by an unbridgeable margin, the worst. ( )
  ABVR | Jan 26, 2014 |
An event as momentous as the first human being to land on the Moon is sure to attract a lot of commentary, and certainly Neil Armstrong has been the subject of a number of books. One Giant Leap is subtitled "Neil Armstrong's Stellar American Journey"... And right there you have the first indication that this is not going to be one of the better books about him. Armstrong, of course, did not make a "stellar" journey - he stayed entirely within the Solar System, travelled no more than a quarter of a million miles from Earth, in fact. Okay, perhaps that's poetic licence. But the cover also depicts a figure in a spacesuit on the Moon. There are no photographs of Armstrong on the Moon. Aldrin didn't take any. So that can't be Armstrong on the cover.

For the rest of the review see: http://spacebookspace.blogspot.com/2007/12/one-giant-leap-leon-wagener.html ( )
  iansales | Feb 19, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312873433, Hardcover)

On July 20, 1969 the whole world stopped. It was a day in which a man who grew up on a farm without electricity would announce, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

In this, the first ever biography of Neil Armstrong, Leon Wagener explores the man whose walk on the moon is still compared to humankind's progenitor's crawl out of the primordial ooze. And whose retreat back to a farm in his native Ohio soon after the last ticker tape confetti fell, has left him looked upon as a reclusive hermit ever since.

This is the true story of a national hero, whose life long quest to walk on the moon truely mirrors our best selves, an American who braved incredible danger daily over a long career, finally achieving what seemed impossible, and broke free of the Earth's surly bonds proving forever that man can reach for the stars, and succeed.

Relying on hundreds of interviews with family and friends of the astronaut, plus generous access to the NASA files, Leon Wagener explores the life of one of America's true heroes, in a book filled with extraordianry adventure, and even greater achievement.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:51 -0400)

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