Written by J.W. Rinzler
Published by Permuted Press
Hardcover, 624 pages
The Space Race. The Right Stuff. One Small Step.
The history of rocketry and missile technology is intertwined with the history of geopolitical conflict and global warfare. And in All Up, J.W. Rinzler takes it “one step beyond” to intertwine a few other elements from the mythology of the time: UFOs and alien hardware.
The story starts in 1911 (with a prelude in 1561…), and briskly moves all the way through the Apollo 11 mission. In between, the story mainly follows Wernher von Braun, who’s work on rockets first empowered the Nazis, then the Americans. And it’s clear that von Braun is loyal to rocketry first, and he’s open to taking money from whomever will dish it out. Including the Nazis. But as the work continues, von Braun and his team come to realize just how much their deal with the devil may cost, and with so much emphasis on developing missiles over rockets, it’s clear the German scientists are frustrated at the fact that their goal of space travel has taken a back seat to Hitler’s priorities.
Von Braun’s journey is mostly front and center, but we also see the work of Robert Goddard in America and Sergei Korolev in Russia. As the story moves through World War II, it weaves in through the travails of getting rockets off the ground.
In the midst of this, we have UFOs and secret intelligence operations. A Mossad agent named Rachel starts on one mission, then another, in the midst of the war and after. And her story takes an interesting turn as she goes off on her own mission of vengeance.
I especially like that we get a view inside not just the American efforts to reach space, but also that of the Russians. With German scientists going to both sides, it seems that America got the better end of the deal. And a lot of that had to do with von Braun’s ruthless acceptance that as long as he has money for his research, politics could be ignored.
Throughout, there are actual headlines from news outlets from the time period to help put the story in the context of the events of the day. And I found myself wondering just how much of the conversations presented are based on interviews and research, and how much is speculative. The fact that it all plays believably, and that most of these characters were actual people, gives the entire story a sense of credibility even though it’s a fictionalized account of the Space Race.
Rinzler, known mostly for his behind-the-scenes books in the Star Wars universe, crafts a tale that’s hard to put down. His fiction skills are just as solid as his research skills, and he spins an enjoyable yarn that mixes historical events with speculative elements (which, now that the military has admitted it, may not be so speculative…). He delivers a slick story with interesting characters and scenarios. And while the prologue doesn’t seem to connect that much to the rest of the book, it’s likely there’s a deeper connection to the overall story that gets told in sequels. And I’m very much looking forward to the sequels.
Oh, and I have a theory why the Artemis mission won’t be going to the lunar poles…