Wednesday Reviews: Failure Is Not An Option by Gene Kranz; It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll by Geoffery Giuliano

Failure Is not an Option

Gene Kranz

The space program was a magnificent achievement not just of America but all humanity. Gene Kranz tells the story of how he, a former Air Force test pilot, was tossed feet first into the early days of Mission Control in the early days of the Mercury Program. His career as a flight controller began with a “four-inch flight,” a Redstone missile barely moving on the pad before shutting down, to landing the first humans on the moon to bringing home Apollo 13 after an explosion in space. It was an amazing time, and the astronauts gave their props to their Russian counterparts, taken the names of the fallen in the space race to the moon, including three cosmonauts who died in orbit mere weeks before one lunar mission.

Kranz relays the highest of highs – Glenn’s mission as the first American to orbit the Earth, Armstrong on the moon – to the lows – the loss of the Apollo 1 astronauts on the pad during a test, the premature end to the moon program. Through it all, we are shown a dedication to one purpose not seen again until the computer and Internet startups of the 1980’s and 1990’s.

It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll

Geoffery Giuliano

This is the second Giuliano bio I’ve done on audio. Unfortunately, it’s one of those rare books I couldn’t find an Amazon link for.

Giuliano looks at the Stones, giving their story from the beginning in 1962 to about 1989 or so, when they began touring for Steel Wheels. Unlike his bio of George Harrison, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, Giuliano is a lot more even-handed in reviewing the Stones’ history. He is most detailed about the band’s early days, and offers his own assertions on the death of founder Brian Jones. He comes right out and says Jones was murdered (though not by the Stones as some conspiracy theorists would have you believe) but stops short of naming names. Barely. He glosses over the seventies, stopping long enough for Ronnie Wood to join the band in 1976, then ends with the tumultuous late 1980’s, bringing the rift between Mick and Keith into sharp focus. His depiction pretty much echoes Keith Richards’ account of their tiff after Undercover and Mick’s abortive solo career.