Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin

Moonwalker. Innovator. Alcoholic.

A brutally honest autobiography of Aldrin’s life, reflecting on not only the stellar parts of his career, but the parts which have shrouded him in despair and embarrassment.

Many Americans view Buzz Aldrin as a national icon; a hero. Part of Apollo 11, the space mission which cemented him in history as the second man to ever walk on the Moon, Aldrin certainly is extraordinary. But there are other sections of his life that define him, too. Like when he was a fighter pilot in the Korean war, an author of novels or when he spent most his days slumped beneath bedsheets, due to the overwhelming depression he suffered. Most people aren’t aware of this side, and Magnificent Desolation explains what precisely Aldrin went through following his Moon Landing; it turns out that the physical side effects were the least of his worries, and that he was psychologically underprepared for the fame that would ensue.

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This book, despite being co-written by Ken Abraham, was definitely written by Aldrin. The words had bitter edges on certain topics (like when discussing his failures in his post-astronaut military career, or when discussing conspiracy theorists) and at other times would appear as if he was desperately trying to seem complementary, as if through the publication of this book he was wary of any outstanding offences he could cause.

Also, occasionally Aldrin would start to build up an event as if it had massive significance in the grand scheme of his life, and as a reader I would wonder what this event would foreshadow. More often than not it turned out to be completely irrelevant and not tie into anything else in the book:

“One overly zealous reporter planted himself in front of our car, refused to budge while snapping photos of me through the windshield. In exasperation, I raised my hand and gave him the finger. As soon as I saw the flash go off, I knew that I had made a gigantic mistake. When we got back to the hotel, my first call was to the attache at the embassy to see if he could quash the picture. He must have successful, because the photo never showed up”

It’s just utterly frustrating. If it turned out that the image had been leaked and had started to give Aldrin an awful reputation which affected his speaking career, then it would have been understandable. But nothing came of it- so why waste a paragraph mentioning  an irrelevant event that is not tied onto anything else in the book? This happened so many times throughout and frankly I found myself exasperated.

What I did enjoy though was when Aldrin started to discuss how in his later career he continued to develop ideas for space exploration. His words sounded so resolute and hopeful for the future- how by 2030 we should have people living on Mars, and his grand plans for a Mars Shuttle System. Above all I found that part fascinating, because it offered me an insight into the future of space. He spoke a lot about space tourism too; it seems like a plausible concept and he discusses it at length because he had devoted plenty of time to ensuring that it became as intrinsic to the American economy as ordinary tourism. We’re not quite there yet, but time can only tell!

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I would recommend this autobiography to those  who have an interest in space history and astronauts, as it does not only offer a valuable insight to Aldrin’s life, but also into the future of space in our society. It is not a necessarily a relaxing read as most of the information is presented quite factually and straightforwardly, but nevertheless I’m glad I gave it go!

July Book of the Month- Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The current plan is to send another unmanned spacecraft Mars for 2020, eventually resulting (several decades later,) in permanent human settlement. If the plans of the nonprofitable charity, Mars One, succeed, that is. This makes Red Rising a more topical novel than ever, as there is only 4 years to the proposed rocket launch date. Why? It is a thrilling science fiction set on the fearsome terrain of Mars, and will delight fans of the Hunger Games.

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Darrow is part of an indefatigable race of miners, called Reds, who have been dispatched on Mars to extract crucial minerals from te entrails of the planet- minerals that are vital if humans are to eternally inhabit the planet. Allegedly. But when Darrow is suddenly ripped from his isolated, primitively set up society of Red, by a rebellious organisation, his perspective shifts as he realises that he has been hooded by a pretence his whole life. However, Darrow can’t dwell on this shocking revelation; he was enlightened for a purpose: to infiltrate the most revered race of human society- the Golds. Yet first Darrow must not only survive, but flourish in the bestial academy- where the competitors are savage, and the stakes sickeningly high.

I was captivated by the concept of this new unique society, where rank and status are conveyed by a certain colour, with the Golds mercilessly towering above everything else in the Universe. I thought that the quirky civilisation on the surface of Mars was written with a mesmerising flair, and I am intrigued to discover more about in the sequels that will undoubtedly emerge. However, the battlefield, also known as a school, is definitely an altered Hunger Games arena. Instead of Districts though, there are Houses, and there are still patrons overseeing the entire affair offering gifts to a favoured few. Although this glaring similarity was writhing throughout my thoughts as I read the novel, I still enjoyed the dynamics of the characters, as well as seeing how the plot unfolds. But yes, it is interchangeable with the Hunger Games. Just on Mars.

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There were scrupulous descriptions in this novel, splattered with vibrant bursts of poetic language- this incontestably added to the rising tension and suspense.

This fierce novel is teeming with nauseating deaths and repugnant violence, so this plot will resonate and affect YA most affectively. I can assure that you will be exhilarated as you’re hurled directly into the harsh world that Darrow endures- even if Katniss Everdeen is lingering in your thoughts. After my first excursion into science fiction was less positive than I hoped, I was recommended this by someone through my blog- I just want to quickly say thank you as I truly enjoyed this novel, and I doubt I would have discovered it without you!