two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
54-Sept-Oct-2011
By: 
Ben Mezrich
user_rating: 
0

The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History

A-SexOnTheMoonMezrich is the author of nine previous nonfiction works, including Bringing Down the House (2002) and The Accidental Billionaires (1.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2009), which was adapted into the movie The Social Network.

The Topic: Thad Roberts was a 22-year-old astrophysicist who finally earned an internship at NASA's Johnson Space Center. A few years later, in 2002, Roberts set aside his dream career in hopes of making one big score: stealing a 661-pound safe containing moon rocks brought back to Earth by astronauts. With some help, he gets the rocks out of the building, but the FBI soon launches a complex sting and catches Roberts attempting to sell the moon rocks to precious-minerals collectors. Roberts eventually served over eight years in prison, spending his days compiling a detailed manuscript about his early life all the way through to his sentencing. Roberts cooperated heavily with Mezrich, giving numerous interviews and sharing his manuscript.
Doubleday. 320 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 9780385533928

Onion AV Club 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Sex On The Moon is written and structured like a novel, which gives it much of its narrative drive. The creative non-fiction style gives the book more eloquent prose and a direct view into the characters' minds, but it can be slightly off-putting in a book nominally based on real, recent history. But the advantages far outweigh the quibbles." Rowan Kaiser

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Mezrich ... specializes in writing about young geniuses with questionable ethics and complicated motives. Sony has already purchased the film rights to Sex on the Moon. If Thad Roberts is as compelling a character on the big screen as he is on the page, Sony could have another hit on its hands." Dustin Michael Harris

Seattle Post Intelligencer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The book leaves unclear the extent to which Roberts' version of events comports with objective reality. ... [Mezrich also] uses an amplified form of ‘creative nonfiction' or ‘literary journalism.' ... Undoubtedly, Sex on the Moon is an entertaining and enjoyable read. For readers, though, the question may become the extent to which its entertainment value undercuts their trust in the author and, hence, the story." Tim Gebhart

USA Today 2 of 5 Stars
"Mezrich has a credibility gap that shines through writing that's overwrought, overstated, over-everything. ... [It] makes for a smoother narrative, but raises doubts about how he knows this or that, and what facts and details he changed. ... And editing he needs. Mezrich never met an adjective he didn't like." Ben Minzesheimer

New York Times 2 of 5 Stars
"He doesn't really know what made Mr. Roberts tick, despite Mr. Roberts's cooperation and willingness to share a series of sappy love letters that he wrote from prison to a new girlfriend. ... [Mezrich] no longer pretends to be telling true stories." Janet Maslin

Critical Summary

Almost every critic was suspicious of Sex on the Moon because Mezrich has been known to stretch the truth in the past, and here he relies heavily on Thad Roberts's own account of the thefts, his ensuing arrest, and his prison term. Given those two factors, how unbiased or factual could the work actually be? Mezrich specializes in telling fast-and-loose tales about characters made for the big screen: that the film option for the book has already been picked up did not shore up the author's credibility. The book is both entertaining and overwritten, filled with too many adjectives and pumped up with too much frantic detail. In the end, though, it may not be truthy enough for even the most forgiving reader.