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Book Review: Magnificent Desolation

Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin ($18 @Amazon) is his second autobiography (haven’t read the first one Return To Earth). I happened to notice it while browsing at the local bookstore and noticed that he was coming to town for a book signing. Added to my calendar and waited to see if events at work would align so I could attend on a weekday afternoon. Things worked out on the schedule and I arrived at 3:30, 30 minutes earlier than the planned start time. Already a good number of people at the store and they explained things pretty well when I came in the door; buy your book(s), get a ticket, browse while you wait. The purchase line was short, only took perhaps 5 minutes, got my ticket – number 313! Start thinking about how long it will take him to sign at least 313 books and have visions of being their until 9 pm.

I get some coffee and sit on the patio to try to work some, 4 pm comes and goes. Buzz finally arrives about 4:15 or 4:20, and then does 15-20 minutes of comments. The monologue was interesting if rambling at times – going back to his days at West Point and going forward to what he’s doing today. You get a sense of a man (and this maybe colored by having read the book now) that struggled with life and finally found his place.

Now about the book…

The trip to the moon is really the introduction to this story, which talks about his life afterward. Lots of time doing PR for NASA and no real interest from NASA in making additional contributions, going back to the Air Force and not getting his dream job of leading the Air Force Academy, heading up the test pilot school, and then falling into deep depression and alcoholism. He talks about getting treated while in the military, a scary prospect back then. Finally decides to leave the military and at that point seems lost.

Plans to leave his first wife to marry another woman, other woman marries someone else. Ultimately divorces, goes through more depression and drinking, tries AA multiple times, meets a great woman and blows it by planning to meet another woman, and then returns to the great woman which lasts through today.

The last couple chapters are more of a ‘here’s what I’ve been doing lately’ and not as interesting as the earlier part of the book, but that’s just me. He’s still engaged in thinking about and evangelizing space travel, and I remember seeing him on TV quite a bit during the recent 40th anniversary of the moon landing.

I think my earlier impression of him was that he crashed because of ‘what do I do to top going to the moon’, and after reading this I think that the problems go back much earlier and that just added to the pressure, not the causing factor. I’d say also that my earlier impression was that he wasn’t the most likable guy, and that stands though not as much – hard to be harder on someone once you see their frailties revealed.

And back to the book store….

We get started about 4:45 and they have some interesting rules; no signed photos or memorabilia, no photos with him though there is a spot for those wanting a photo, he’ll only sign on an inside blank page, and no personalization's. The last one surprised me, isn’t that the point of a book signing to remember getting to meet someone interesting in a personal way? The other stuff I understand given that it would all wind up on Ebay. Still, too late to quit, so I start browsing. Went a lot faster than I expected and about 5:45 he signed my copies and I was done. Interesting experience, and I’ve got an extra signed copy set aside as a raffle item for a raffle as yet undefined.

SQLAndy

I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.

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