BOOKS: ‘SEX ON THE MOON’ by Ben Mezrich (Review by Lisa Purcell)

In Books on August 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm


    First, let me say that this is a very good true crime  story-and I’m not a ‘crime-story’ kinda gal. It’s fascinating to get inside the head of Thad Roberts who, at age 25, thought he was going to become a millionaire by stealing-then selling- the actual moon rocks brought back by the astronauts on the Apollo Space missions.

   The fact that this guy was ambitious enough to get a job at NASA, and had a science-and-numbers kind of brain (smartmakes it all the more bewildering that he would attempt such a heist. His love for astronauts (the ‘rock-stars’ of the skies!’), space, science and theory point to someone for whom the hallowed halls of NASA (in particular, The Johnson Space Center, in Houston where he worked) would be sacred, and therefore revered by him, as opposed to being robbed by him! You would think….

    The book was an easy read, and a somewhat geeky one as well. This is because there is tons of info relating to the Space Programs, both the past-involving the moon, and the future that is now Mars focused. The timing couldn’t be better for this book to be made into a movie, what with the recent and (for some of us) sad ending of the Space Shuttle moon missions, which ended this year. It’s especially hard for those of us who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, when Space travel was such a big deal, almost a back-drop to our culture. As kids, we watched ‘Lost In Space’, drank Tang  and watched the first moon landing on our black and white console tv sets! We have a deep, abiding nostalgia for the moon!

    In many ways the book reads more like a punched-up screenplay. Ben Mezrich, the author-who wrote ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ on which the movie ‘The Social Network’  was based, must have been thinking movie adaption.

   I must point out that Mr. Mezrich comes across as vaguely ‘pervy’ in his descriptions of the women in Thad’s life…..Because evidently, every female that Thad Roberts comes in contact with is at least a ten, if not eleven. At first, the descriptions are harmless: ‘her beautiful, reddish blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her white sweater tight against her curves. She pulled up the bottom of her sweater to reveal the flat plane of her toned stomach’ This, of Thad’s wife Sonya. Then, at an impromptu pool party at NASA, he watches a random girl, also swimming: ‘She brought her hand up behind her head, pinning back her flowing hair-and the motion did wonderful things to her bikini top’ I began to feel like Mr. Mezrich might want to be alone?Even though NASA is a place where brain-power rules, every female’s value in this story is tied to her appearance. Which is the norm, but I was hoping maybe not at NASA.

    Meanwhile, Thad’s young wife, a model (they married very young, they were each other’s firsts, and grew up in strict Mormon families) was left behind in Utah, while Thad broke ground in Texas.  Sonya is ‘always off  modeling’ or ‘always hanging out with her model friends’ in all sorts of shallow pursuits. But just when you might actually buy into Sonya and her hip modeling world you read this passage: ‘He (Thad) didn’t know how many of the buffed and polished specimens were gathered (at his house, while he’s visiting home) but he didn’t think he could handle another evening of mindless conversation in some loud, overpriced, overly trendy restaurant’…so…’He didn’t even notice as his green Toyota Tercell started up in the driveway, the tires spitting gravel as the group headed out to dinner without him’ and that’s when you’re ‘boinked’ back into the reality that this is the hard-core ‘modeling scene’ of Utah- where models are ‘buff’, and cruising the cool, mean streets in green Toyota Tercells.  (BTW: Who knew there were-overly trendy restaurants in Utah? Trendy, maybe- but overly?)

    Eventually, there’s almost a slip in girl-ogling, when (finally!) a girl at Nasa is described as ‘mousy’. Coincidentally, this is the only girl Thad ‘rebuffs’, though clearly she wants him! The ‘Mouse’ engages (entraps?) Thad in some innocent skinny-dipping (she started it!) until: ‘Thad could see the hint of pink nipple beneath the crook of her elbow, but he really tried to avert his eyes’ Since it was pitch black, and took place in the dead of night, I’d have to say-Thad sure had some x-ray-like, nipple seein’ eyes!  Likewise, when Sonya visits the Space Center, a gruff scientist, who barely speaks to anyone, despite being a ‘scientific legend’ immediately ‘softened upon the sight of her: ‘the nervous smile on her bee-stung lips, the way she pushed the hair out of her eyes’. Why- he even gifted her with a (nerd alert!) calcareous meteorite, though thankfully, Mr. Mezrich didn’t write that Cranky-Science Man slapped her playfully on her tight, well-rounded, rosebud of an ass before sending her on her way, though I won’t say I wasn’t expecting it!  But nothing could compare to the description of Rebecca (real name: Tiffany Brooke Fowler) the girl he would soon steal moon rocks with and for:

    ‘Physically, she was stunning. Her hair was jet black, framing a face that looked as if it had been carved from polished porcelain. Her cheekbones were unnervingly high, and her playful blue eyes lit up in a way that reminded Thad of the bio-luminescent algae they were on their way to see [that’s a new one- I’ll give him that!]  She was wearing a white t-shirt and extremely short shorts: even from a glance, it was easy to discern her tight, athletic form. The sliver of bare skin between her shirt and shorts sent chills down to his spine, and he actually found himself turning his eyes away. To his utter surprise, he was intimidated by this ninety pound girl.’ [One can only wonder how he managed to weigh her!]

    Thad’s stoner friend and accomplice Gordon (real name: Gordon Sean McWorter) was described so stereo-typically that I was literally picturing Jeff Spicoli. From the very moment we meet him, he’s toking away on a joint and talking in whacky circles- ( the same way I picture Matthew McConaughey always talks)- claiming the moon landing was a hoax and spouting Mormon scripture. Can anyone really be this one dimensional? His role-as deemed by Thad- was to help find ‘moon rock buyers’ on the internet, but it’s hard to believe that anyone with an ounce of intelligence would have trusted this guy with a litter of kittens, let alone priceless moon rocks!

    The book was fast-paced and full of insider NASA info. It made me wish I’d considered science more, as both an interesting subject and possible career path. Of course, I  don’t know if I’d have been hot enough to work at NASA even in my prime. It’s a model-superstore over there!

    I do recommend the book because it holds your interest, and it’s one of those stories that plays out in your head like the movie it’s destined to be.                                    LP

“That is one tight, well-rounded moon!’



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