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Red Moon Rising

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Red Moon Rising
Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age. By Matthew Brzezinski. (Times Books: 2007. Pg. 336.) ISBN: 080508147X

Reviewed by Herbert White - December 14, 2007

Red Moon Rising is the real-life international thriller about the Russian - American Space Race and the rivalries that were ignited by the successful launch of Sputnik. In this terse, absorbing narrative, Matthew Brzezinski, a former international reporter with the Wall Street Journal and a current contributor to the New York Times Magazine, examines the birth of the Space Age. While the bulk of this book concentrates on the late 1950's, it also offers a brief overview of the Space Age as a whole, tracing the origins of the Space Race from its inglorious beginnings in 1944 through to the lingering impact that the Space Race still has today, and is seen in just about everything from satellite technology to the internet.

The main focus of the book centers upon the international rivalries between Russia and the United States that launched the Space Race. Many mistakenly believe that the Space Race did not began until John F. Kennedy's declared that the United States would be the first country to put a man on the moon. In reality, the race to space began much earlier, burgeoning out of the ashes of World War II and the combatants development of rocket technology. The real beginning of the 'race' was Nikita Khrushchev's annoyance at the overflights of the Soviet Union by American U-2 spy planes. To counter this invasion of their national sovereignty, the Soviets develop artificial satellite technology which came to fruition with the launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. This tiny satellite proved that the Soviet Union had the ability to overfly US territory. Sputnik, along with the tiny beep-beep signal that it broadcasted was to forever change the course of world history, and which started a technological game of King of the Hill, a game whose results included men reaching the moon and the development of many of the technological marvels that are now essential components of everyday life.

Brzezinski's account of this high-stakes game is exciting and detailed. He explores the diverse opinions that existed in the US, as to whether or not it was prudent to participate in the bourgeoning Space Race, and how Sputnik and the efforts of the Soviet Union to gain superiority in space changed the very fabric of American life. As important, Brzezinski examines the role that the Space Race played within the larger scope of the Cold War.

Red Moon Rising is a splendid book on a number of levels. It not only provides a telling overview of the history of the beginning of the Space Age, but it also provides a detailed overview of the social and scientific impact that the Space Race, and the developing Space Age, had on the world, and America in particular. In addition, Brzezinski narrative style would be well suited for writing works of fiction. As such he brings a literary flair to this book that may make you think at times that you are reading a fast paced thriller, when in fact what you are reading is an enthralling work of nonfiction. Red Moon Rising is a must read for anyone interested any aspect of the Space Race, as well as anyone interesting in reading a page-turning, unforgettable real-life adventure story that changed the course of history!

Related Reviews:

Sputnik: The Shock of the Century, by Paul Dickson.
This is not only a riveting account of the launch of Sputnik and its aftermath, but it is also fascinating account of the development of rocket technologies, and the space race 'waged' between the Soviet Union and the United States.

In the Land of White Death: An Epic Story of Survival in the Siberian Arctic, By Valerian Albanov.
This epic story of survival chronicles the unbelievable 235-mile journey taken through Siberian Arctic, on foot, by a handful of men after their ship became trapped in the pack ice of the Kara Sea.

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