Monday, September 6, 2010

Michael Collins - Carrying The Fire

I've read quite a few books by astronauts recently, and some of them are reviewed elsewhere in this blog. But so far I have to say this is my favourite. It was written in 1974, less than five years after Collins had been to the moon, and it's written so well that you almost forget that you know the outcome of the story as the plot slowly unfurls.
You know he survives, you know the three of them returned in triumph from the moon, but somehow it all seems like a fresh adventure - I think because though this man's eyes it was a different journey to how we imagine.

For him it was the culmination of years of work, but was 'just' another flight, albeit a lot 'higher' than usual!
Collins would appear to be a thoroughly nice chap, and his ability to express how he feels about the trip to the moon and what it means for us all is very well written. All in all this book is a joy to read, having something for everyone. He deals with his emotions and physical shortcomings, his relationships with the other crew, and also goes into just enough technical detail of how difficult the flight was to satisfy any reader.
As the man who didn't make it to the surface, he's always had a certain amount of sympathy from me. By coincidence I was watching a concert by Al Murray the other night on the tv and Collins was the (unnamed) butt of one of his jokes. But in fact the man had a great time on the mission, and contributed heavily to the success of the mission - and does not seem unduly upset by not having actually stepped on the surface. Indeed, it would appear Buzz Aldrin has suffered worse for having gone but not having been quite the first man on the moon.

Collins is now 80 (in 2010) - as this book was written shortly after the flight I would love to know what he's done with part two of his life, a subject on which he contemplates in this book. A problem for him, he realised, as it's tough not to see life as all downhill after having done something so amazing. I really hope it all worked out well for him.

Recommended, 10/10,

you could buy the paperback version here

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