Title: Apollo 13
Author: Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger
Release Date: July 31, 1995
Publisher: Mariner Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, History
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5
On April 13, 1970, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert were aboard Apollo 13 heading to the moon. The world wasn’t really interested in their voyage; after all, we’d already beaten the Russians to the moon. What was the point in going back? However, the situation changed drastically during a routine stir of the oxygen tanks. This is the story of all the people who came together to ensure that Apollo 13 made it home safely.
Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies. The quality of the acting and the production always takes my breath away. The story almost seems dramatized because so much goes wrong for these three men on their crippled spaceship. It’s hard to imagine what they went through, and what the people on the ground were thinking, knowing that the lives of these astronauts were in their hands. I decided to read Jim Lovell’s memoir of the events in order to gain a better understanding of what happened during the fateful mission. Though originally titled Lost Moon, it was repackaged as Apollo 13 when the movie was released.
Apollo 13 doesn’t follow a true memoir format. Instead, it’s a comprehensive look at the days the spacecraft was in the air. The reader gets a birds’ eye view into Odyssey (the command module) and Aquarius (the lunar module), into the minds of the men who are stuck out in space. But Lovell and Kluger also include what is happening on the ground. Clearly, Lovell couldn’t have known exactly what was happening since he was on the ship, which makes me think they relied on interviews in order to complete that portion of the book. Either way, I have no doubt that it’s historically accurate.
Despite the fact that it’s non-fiction, Apollo 13 reads like a fiction narrative. The book is fast-paced and suspenseful. Seeing both what’s going on in space and on the ground really gives the reader a clear picture of how drastic the situation was. Additionally, it keeps the memoir from being a dry and dusty collection of experiences and turns it into a living, breathing account of the 5 days of Apollo 13.
I was also surprised at how much was jam-packed into the pages of Apollo 13. It turns out that, rather than dramatizing the story for the movie, they simplified it. A lot more went wrong than was depicted in the movie. Perhaps they thought it was just too complicated, or maybe they thought it would seem overly dramatized – after all, as I was reading it, I couldn’t believe how many things went wrong for the astronauts. It really makes me realize how lucky we were to get them home alive.
Apollo 13 was an exciting read that I highly recommend. It didn’t drag at all and kept me interested from beginning to end. This is a book that would be great for NASA and Apollo newbies, because most of us are already familiar with the story from the movie.