I've read many different books about the early days of the American space program, and what struck me about Of a Fire on the Moon
is how personal it is.
While Mailer spends a great deal of time analyzing the people and the science and the machines that made man's first steps on the moon possible, what really makes this book work is the context he expertly weaves throughout. Because Apollo 11 wasn't just about putting a man on the moon - it was intricately bound to the cultural revolution of the Age of Aquarius. It was about capitalism, corporatism, American WASP identity. America wasn't just trying to beat the Russians - it was trying to win over its own people and the rest of the world.
Mailer talks about a global event in terms of his own experience with it, not just as a journalist covering the event but as a person who was forced to confront his own ideas about the new world that was emerging in that tumultuous decade. Written in 1969-1970, Of a Fire on the Moon
offers a unique perspective of the far-reaching effects of the American space program without the benefit of hindsight. Highly recommended.