Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich [Book Thoughts]

All flash and no substance. Give Sex on the Moon a skip.
-Imran

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Jokes on you if thought, Sex on the Moon was some sleazy space porno. No, it’s a dramatized retelling of the Moon Rock Heist of 2002. Thad Roberts, an intern at NASA, broke into legendary professor Everett Gibson’s office with his girlfriend and stole a safe containing lunar samples. He then attempted to sell them to a Belgian rock collector but was arrested in an FBI sting operation and sent to prison for eight years. Ten years after the ‘heist’, Ben Mezrich has attempted to piece the story together through a series of interviews with Roberts and others who ‘did not wished to be named’.

 The story starts off with Roberts being kicked out of his strict Mormon home for having premarital sex. There’s there’s a definite sense of adventure early on as Roberts battles against the odds and works his way towards his dream of becoming an astronaut. It begins as an underdog story and Mezrich can certainly write chapters in a way that makes you want to find out happens next. It’s entertaining for a while until you realize that’s all there is to it. Hook after hook but we don’t really get much more than a shallow insight into Thad’s character.

 That’s not to say that there’s no point to the story. It would have been interesting to explore what would motivate a bright and promising young intern to rob NASA when he had so much lose but we don’t really get that opportunity. Instead there’s the sense that Mezrich is desperately trying to find something deeper to the story, but not quite succeeding. Thad’s internal monologues don’t really answer the reader’s questions and after a while it becomes insufferable to sift through his naïve rationalizations and delusions of grandeur while he’s showing at every turn just how shallow how is. He’s writing poetry and soliloquizing about his ‘one true love’ over a girl he’s known for only one week while cheating on his wife with her. And he’s fantasizing about the grand contributions he’s going to make to science while planning to steal the moon rocks and sell them for holiday money.

 The tipping point is near the end when Thad is trying to conceive his theft as something glorious or heroic and comparing himself to James Bond; at which point you may be inclined to feel nausea. The only two explanations I can conceive for why the book is this way are: a) Thad Roberts is delusional and/or a moron or b) Ben Mezrich didn’t really manage to understand why Roberts did it. Either way, the level of childish self-justification on the part of Roberts is simply staggering.

 Throughout the reading, there’s this also quirky over-stylization of each character as though Mezreich is trying to make them suitable for a Hollywood popcorn flick. It stands out in particular with the Belgian rock collector who, despite being one of the only sensible and balanced characters in the book, is characterized as a nerd with OCD. Despite this, the rest of the main cast come across as fairly bland and featureless. Also, being a dramatization of events that took place 10 years, it’s unclear how much of the story is actually true especially since some of the facts are at odds with the documentary based on the same sequence of events.

 To conclude, I can’t help but feel disappointed. I kept reading hoping that the story would go somewhere but 300 pages later and we’re still left with the same question we had before we started. Why did Thad Roberts throw his bright future away after he worked so hard to earn it? Ben Mezrich clearly doesn’t know the answer.

 All flash and no substance. Give Sex on the Moon a skip.

 See you next week.

 

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