Thad Roberts, a fellow in a prestigious NASA program had an idea - a romantic, albeit crazy, idea. He wanted to give his girlfriend the moon. Literally.
Thad convinced his girlfriend and another female accomplice, both NASA interns, to break into an impregnable laboratory at NASA - past security checkpoints, an electronically locked door with cipher security codes, and camera-lined hallways - and help him steal the most precious objects in the world: the moon rocks.
But what does one do with an item so valuable that it’s illegal even to own? And was Thad Roberts - undeniably gifted, picked for one of the most competitive scientific posts imaginable, a possible astronaut - really what he seemed?
Mezrich has pored over thousands of pages of court records, FBI transcripts, and NASA documents and has interviewed most of the participants in the crime to reconstruct this Ocean’s Eleven–style heist, a madcap story of genius, love, and duplicity that reads like a Hollywood thrill ride.
You know who Ben Mezrich is—you just don’t know that you know it. Sex on the Moon is his fifth work of non-fiction in the past 10 years, and the story captured here is easily as memorable as the others. Previously, Mezrich has detailed the famous gang of MIT whiz kids who cheated Las Vegas out of millions of dollars, the shady securities traders who squeezed millions out of the Asian markets, the second set of MIT students to beat Vegas odds, and the version of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook founding that ultimately won three Academy Awards for The Social Network. This time, our anti-hero is Thad Roberts, an ex-Mormon geology student with dreams of becoming an astronaut. But he can’t get to the moon, so he brings the moon home with him. Literally — he gets a job at NASA and spends years planning out how to steal a small collection of authentic moon rocks that are a priceless part of American history.
Despite the end results of extensive jail time and public ignominy, for 90 percent of this story, Thad is a very sympathetic character. He no doubt owes a debt of gratitude to narrator Casey Affleck, whose gentle rasp and easy-going vibe enable listeners to get smoothly swept up in Thad’s ridiculous ideas. Affleck has the advantage of Mezrich's extensive research, as much of the dialogue in the book is verbatim from FBI files or court transcripts. All Affleck has to do is act the part, and he does so with utter believability. Thad’s quest for social acceptance and true love is delivered with such amusing tenderness that Affleck at times elevates this unconventional heist story to real poetry through the almost musical cadence in his voice work. He is a terrific complement to Ben Mezrich's writing, and one must of course speculate on whether Affleck will play Thad Roberts when this weird little true crime story is inevitably adapted for film. Megan Volpert
"Movie-worthy treatment to the guy who stole moon rocks from NASA" (The New York Daily News)
"An in-depth look at Thad Roberts, who along with three other NASA interns, stole pieces of lunar rock to impress his girlfriend. Mezrich has done extensive research to recreate the story of how an aspiring astronaut ended up getting caught for stealing over 100 pieces of the moon." (The Atlantic Monthly)
"Mezrich has uncovered another high-stakes, fascinating true story....part love story, part madcap caper, part astro-geekery, the book is one of the summer's most fun reads." (NPR)
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Don't let the narrator ruin it for you