Brave New World (Alduous Huxley)

This book totally gives me the heebie jeebies. Set in this futuristic society, humans are scientifically mass produced rather than reproduced naturally in families. There are no families at all, actually. The term  and concept of "family" is shunned as scandalous. Because the people are produced this way, the population is easily maintained (limited, rather), which promotes the overall societal peace. Another contributor to this "peace" is the fact that soma, which is a hallucinogenic drug, is given freely and encouraged to be taken. High people generally tend to be pretty compliant. That much is true no matter what the century is. Sex is also encouraged, but only recreationally. There is a repetitive mantra of "everyone belongs to everyone else" within the society that makes it permissive for any man to have any woman he so desires, and vice versa. The soma prevents emotional attachment in such encounters.

Comprehending the construct of the society itself is exhausting and mentally taxing. Intertwined with the cultural parameters is the story of a man named Bernard. Bernard is a guy who has taken a preference to one of the girls. This is forbidden, of course, so everyone Bernard shares this with just shoves more soma down his throat. Eventually Bernard and the girl take a trip to a village operating outside the rules of their society, and they witness shocking situations between the people, such as a play which suddenly turns to the mob beating of a young boy. Bernard begins to question the structure of their world, and the result is a ripple effect ending with more soma and recreational sex.

In short, the book seems rather pointless on the whole. Even as I attempt to present a brief summary on the work, I find that it is difficult to synthesize the story because so much of it is...well, ridiculous.

And I hated every word of it.


Good in Bed (Jennifer Weiner)

Cannie Shapiro is a beautiful, intelligent, hilarious young writer who experiences her life's mortification when one day she cracks open a popular magazine and realizes that her very recently ex-boyfriend has written an article. About her. Including embarrassing information. She confronts him, which ends badly. She tries to win him back, which also ends badly. Eventually, Cannie realizes that of all the things she wants in life, this guy is not on the list. It would have ended nicely right there. Until....Cannie realizes she's pregnant with jerk ex-boyfriend's baby, which also very nearly ends badly. But finally, through a series of miracles and the rallying of her unusual posse of friends, Cannie figures out that she has everything and everyone she could ever want or need. Even the love of her life, who was right under her nose all along.


Blood on the Tracks (Cecelia Holland)

In 1877, the United States was just recovering from the Civil War. The railroad industry was booming, which meant the men who owned the railroads were fantastically rich. And greedy. In a meeting the men decided they weren't as rich as they wanted to be, so they agreed to kick it up a notch by cutting the railroad workers' wages by 10% and increase their workloads. The result was overwhelmingly catastrophic.

The workers began a strike, which snowballed into an all-out war between the remaining local militia and a mob of railroad workers driven crazy by anger. The railroad business owners completely underestimated the mob, and in the span of one night (July 20, 1877), the entire town of Pittsburgh was thrown into complete chaos. Innocent people were shot and killed by stray bullets, buildings were set on fire, and firefighters were held at gunpoint to prevent them from putting the fires out. After the massacre, the number of people who died resulting from wounds inflicted during the chaos is still unknown to this day. That which was documented is completely harrowing. One 4 year old girl was shot in the knee and her leg had to be sawed off. Another Irish immigrant who had only been in the country for a few days was killed without ever even realizing what the fight was even about. Because of the damage inflicted to the cities and to the railroad businesses, the "bosses" learned a lesson that has impacted the way workers have been treated ever since. The workers learned the very same lesson. There is great power, and great responsibility, in mass revolt.

Maybe I just never paid attention in history class, but I must shamefully admit, I didn't even know there was a "Great Railroad Strike of 1877." Did you?


Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History (Ben Mezrich)

Thad Roberts was a co-op working for NASA at Johnson Space Center, and in his brief time there he experienced some rather amazing aspects of the study of space, including what astronauts experience in training, and what they bring back from voyages to space. One day Thad was shown a safe of moon rocks which were considered "garbage" by NASA because they had been removed from a controlled storage and preservation environment so they could be used in scientific research. One thing lead to another, and eventually Thad decided to try taking NASA's trash and turn it into his treasure by selling it to a mineral collector he located online. Yada yada yada, he got busted. Sent to jail for 8 years. Scorned by NASA, scientists, and geologists worldwide. A pock upon the American culture for attempting to profit from the sale of a national treasure. 

This is Thad's story as told by Mezrich, and it is note-worthy to point out that as such, this is the story from Thad's point of view. Controversy has already surrounded this book because people criticize the imbalance and the fantasy communicated through Thad's delusions. (That it was ok to steal lunar samples, that he was helping science by making them more valuable, that this girl he met and fell in love with while still married was his catalyst and inspiration for an adventure. Sounds like hooey to me.) 

Having said that, Thad's story is an incredible one. Though I fall very short of having ample knowledge on the topic, I've long been a NASA junkie. When I saw the description of this book in an email from Amazon regarding summer releases, I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. (Side note: this was my first experience pre-ordering a Kindle book, and I so loved how it was magically delivered to my device at midnight on release date. Very cool!) This book is one of the best nonfiction pieces I have read in a very, very long time. I loved Mezrich's style so much that I automatically began to search out other books he has penned. I love the mystery and mystique of NASA, and this book captures the awe so many of us have for the organization and its missions. 

The timing of the book's release is interesting to me. The last shuttle mission was July 14, 2011. This mission signifies the end of our nation's pride in and fascination with the moon missions and the beginning of our single minded focus on the journey to Mars. The book's release date was July 12, 2011. In it Thad Roberts's thoughts and fascinations regarding his dream of becoming the first man to walk on Mars is described numerous times and in great detail. Could it be that Thad Roberts, in an attempt to make up for his great offense to NASA and science itself, used his book to help convert some of the widespread criticism about the end of the shuttle program to some excitement about the Mars discovery and exploration program? Talk about turning his trash into NASA's treasure! Hmmm...

As terrific as this tale is, there are a few things that irk me a bit. For starters, I believe that the blurbs posted for marketing purposes are drastically misleading. First of all, the book does not at any point state that Thad's reason for wanting to steal the moon rocks was because "he wanted to give his girlfriend the moon." I'm fairly certain I didn't skip a chapter, and by no means did the book ever state that the reason Thad robbed NASA was to give his girl the moon. There may have been a brief mention when the deed was nearly complete that it would be pretty exciting to give her a piece of the moon, but this was about Thad and Thad alone. Additionally, some reviews also state that he "convinced" his accomplices to assist him in the crime; on the contrary, the picture Mezrich paints is one of the accomplices offering themselves up willingly. I mean, it sounds like these reviewers didn't read the galleys at all. Or maybe they did, and it was merely a continued effort to market this book specifically to men. 

And make no mistake, Sex on the Moon is heavily marketed to the man crowd. The title itself isn't one that is going to pique the interest of many ladies. The heavy use of adjectives like "daring" and "audacious" are commonly used in marketing strategies for guys. There are a few scenes in the book describing Thad's lust after and physical encounters both with his wife and with his girlfriend (while still married-the jerk) that aren't necessarily graphic but definitely explicit in detail. Unnecessarily so. I mean, you're chugging along and here's this intimate scene and you think "Hey, I thought this was a book about NASA and moon rocks." 

As for Thad Roberts, I don't know where he is or what he is up to these days, but one thing I know for certain is that the guy is quite the brain. Despite going to federal prison for a sentence of 100 months and hacking off the greatest scientists in the world, his book is absolutely fantastic.

He just may make his millions on those moon rocks after all...