There are many pieces to the Apollo 8 story, but Kurson brings them together effortlessly. We see the human aspect of the flight from stories of the astronauts and how their families cope with the danger of the mission. We learn the engineering challenges that must be overcome. We learn the engineering challenges that must be overcome and how Apollo 8 paved the way for subsequent flights, most important the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. All of this is going on as America seethes and riots over civil rights and the Vietnam War. But times of trouble give way to hopes for the future. Kurson puts us in the command module as the astronauts read movingly from the Book of Genesis and on Christmas Eve as Anders takes the historic photo that astounded America and the world.
Kurson has a good dramatic storytelling style ... and his portrayals of the pioneering astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders (all of whom were interviewed by the author), turns these men from historical figures into real people. The book is proof that there’s room in the marketplace for more than one book about a well-known event.
The book is well-written overall, and Kurson interviewed all three members of the Apollo 8 crew for it. If there’s one drawback to it, though, it’s that the story is a familiar one: the books doesn’t really unearth anything new about the mission that had not been discussed in previous books or articles ... Rocket Men is a good book about the Apollo 8 mission, but perhaps one best suited for those not familiar with the mission at all versus those who have already read various books about the mission and are looking for new details. The book, and the mission itself, offer a reminder that sometimes science fiction becomes science fact, if not necessarily the way we envisioned it.