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WesternSFA
The Cassandra Project
by Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick
Ace Books, $25.95, 387pp
Release Date: November 6, 2012
What if Neil Armstrong was not the first man on the moon?

That’s the question these two superb authors play with in this novel.

Jerry Culpepper is the public face of NASA. He does what he can to keep the flame of space exploration alive and in the public eye---and hopefully keep the government interested enough to keep funding the almost moribund space program. The time line is a few years in the future.

Bit by bit, Culpepper becomes aware of a very whacked-out conspiracy: Neil Armstrong was NOT the first man on the moon. In fact he was probably the fourth or fifth man on the moon. And Culpepper, with the help of a wonderfully eccentric billionaire created in the mode of Richard Branson (of Virgin Atlantic), agrees a privately funded flight to the moon may be just the thing to find out what’s on the dark side that both the Russians and the US wanted no one to know about during the Cold War when their animosity was at its highest?

No one in the government will confirm this, of course and the NASA records don’t confirm it, either---but all these anomalies come to light in reports of the Apollo missions before Apollo XI—and they begin to pile up and crack the mystery wide open. Culpepper tracks down the few remaining people alive at the time that either had something to do with Apollo missions in space or on the ground.

The questions that pop up are: Why were there hours missing in flyby missions when the usual spokesperson on the flight didn’t speak, especially when the capsule was on the dark side of the moon? Why is it that photographs of the dark side of the moon from these flights have been edited---and nobody claims to know why or who?

Why were the Russians involved in this conspiracy when the US and Russian space programs were in fierce competition with the other to have the first man on the moon?

Why are there almost no records of a highly secret project known as the Cassandra Project?

And what did Richard Nixon leave on a hitherto unknown tape that blows this whole Cassandra Project wide open?

Intrigued? Oh, you should be!

I am more familiar with McDevitt’s work than Resnick’s. In McDevitt’s work I am always pulled along at a furious page-turning pace by his ability to dangle clues before the reader and leave you guessing. Which happens here in spades.

I couldn’t put this down, the characters are wonderful and the resolution is pretty darn nutty.

An excellent SF mystery handled by two masters. ~~ Sue Martin

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