One Small Step
It's 1968, and the U.S. and Soviet Union are in a technology battle to be first on the moon. Scott is living with his father, a fighter pilot, while his parents are separated, and even though his mother wouldn't approve, Scott's father gives him secret flying lessons. When an accident reveals Scott's pilot skills, the U.S. government approaches with a covert offer: they're sending chimps to the moon, and they want Scott to fly with them in four months.
This is a fun story with lots of details about space travel and pilots in the 60s, and some interesting relationship dynamics between Scott and his father. The story is crafted to fit enough real details from history to make it semi-plausible, which is much more fun than if it were a completely alternative history.
I disliked a few throwaway comments and details, like a reference to using the telescope to look at the girl next door, or her mother, and comments intolerant to LGBTQ people. These comments didn't make the character or time and place more realistic or offering context, as some of the references to Communism did. They just stood out, making me wonder if it would be a good book to recommend to students to present these viewpoints as normal, in an otherwise interesting story.
The presence of Scott's friend is unrealistic; an obvious mechanism for certain plot developments and to show Scott in a lighter way, instead of just working hard on mission training throughout the book. The interactions with the chimps could have been a separate, fascinating story; while these scenes were not entirely realistic, they might inspire readers to learn more about intelligent animals in captivity.
"He made flying a jet seem easy, of course. Easy and safe. Which of course it wasn't. As I was soon to learn." p. 65
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