Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cover-to-Cover Commuting: Sex on the Moon

As I said before, I'm on a bit of a true crime kick this summer.  Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich has a catchy title and quite the different premise from the usual murders that are found in the 364 Dewey section.

Unfortunately, as I was writing this review, I happened upon some information that made me feel duped.  While this is no Million Little Pieces, it is an embellished tale.  Entertaining, yes; entirely factual, no.  The author did not do his homework for this book, which seems mostly based on interviews with the criminal behind the caper.  It drops my rating.

(As Wikipedia puts it, "Testimony given [for a National Geographic show] is at odds with some of the key claims made in Ben Mezrich's account.)

Checkouts: Information unavailable
Typical reader: True crime fans and those drawn by the title
Source: Checked out from my local library

Synopsis: Thad Roberts, a daredevil and an up-and-coming fellow in a prestigious NASA program, risks it all to perform a most audacious heist - stealing moon rocks gathered by the Apollo missions.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars

Thad Roberts is an idiot of a genius.  After a rough and rocky start to adulthood, allegedly getting kicked out of the Latter-Day Saints' missionary training as well his family, and marrying young and penniless, he decided to be an astronaut and set about achieving that goal.  He managed to land an internship several years in a row at the Johnson Space Center in Texas.  It was there that he came up with a wild, extravagant heist to impress his girlfriend - the liberation of moon rocks from a secure safe in one of NASA's most secure buildings.  Then he went and promptly got caught in a sting operation by the FBI.

The book is exciting in parts, particularly the execution of the theft itself, and dry and dull in others.  It lacks the complete story; apparently Mr. Mezrich only interviewed Roberts and Axel Emmermann, the Belgian rock collector who contacted the FBI about someone trying to sell moon rocks.  From what I've read elsewhere, both men are portrayed as greater than they really were.  The characterizations of those involved are actually quite the caricatures.  If you go by this book, the other interns had dull lives before Roberts spiced things up with camping trips, skydiving, and such.  And all the female interns were blonde and buxom beauties.  (Speaking of the female interns, I don't know why his girlfriend and other accomplice's names were changed, considering they also were charged in the heist and their names are matters of public record.)

I did not particularly enjoy the audiobook's narration.  Casey Affleck has a rather gravelly voice.  His diction is clear, though, and he differentiates between speakers.  It did not deter me.

In spite of being embellished, this was still an interesting book to listen to.  As I previously stated, the execution of the heist was exciting.  Learning a bit about NASA, the Apollo missions, and the moon rocks was also interesting.  If you want to read or listen to this book, just take it with a grain of salt.


  1. I thought this sounded a bit -too- "larger than life" when you were describing parts of it to me. Even so, I'm glad it proved to be enjoyable, if embellished.

    1. Strangely, an amazing portion of the heist was left out. According to the article I linked to in my review, Thad and Tiffany donned wetsuits and oxygen tanks to get through a room full of nitrogen gas. It sounded simpler in the book!