James A. Michener was never a man to shrink from big tasks. His 1982 bestselling novel tackled one of the biggest: An exposition of America’s space program.
The novel begins as World War II ends.
Michener applies his tried-and-true formula of showing events through the experiences of fictional characters living at pivotal times.
Michener first introduces four fictional men whose lives will be intertwined with the American space program. Later readers will meet their wives and children.
Through these fictional characters, Michener is able to trace not only the history of America’s space program, but of America’s changing profile.
Although Michener was a gung-ho supporter of the space program—he served for four years to the NASA Advisory Council and had extensive contacts with NASA scientists and engineers—he records with an historian’s eye how people outside the program reacted to it.
Particularly interesting for readers today to see how the space program led to an anti-science movement, the feminist movement, proliferation of fundamentalist religious groups, rise of right wing militants, and a distrust in government in general.
In 1982, Michener’s Space may well have been as prescient as Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here in 1935 or George Orwells’s novel 1984 in 1949.
Space by James A. Michener
Random House. 1st ed. ©1982. 622 p.
1982 bestseller #2. My grade: A
©2019 Linda G. Aragoni