Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: To Touch the Stars by Jeremy Pack

Reviewed by Fehu
To Touch the Stars by Jeremy Pack
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 350pgs
5 Pants Off

For happenstance news correspondent Tait Williams and newly minted astronaut Nicholas Sullivan, 1966 is a year of beginnings. Idealistic Tait dreams of changing the world with his pen, and Nick has his sights set on the moon. With the Apollo program in full swing, Nick is on the fast track to his dreams—even as Tait’s hopes of covering the Vietnam war are sidelined by a cause he doesn't believe in: a correspondent assignment with NASA. It is here, in the golden age of the US space program, that the hearts of two men collide, setting them on a path of discovery spanning two decades.

From war-torn Cambodia to the decadence and heartbreak of the early 1980s, Nick and Tait come together time and again only to be ripped apart by social conventions and their own ambitions. As they strive to realize dreams that remain elusively beyond their grasp, through each other and the extraordinary people that touch their lives, they will come to understand that the things that matter most—the brightest stars of all—have been within their reach all along.

To some part, I loved this story but I was left feeling sad and had moments where I just wish things did not have to happen. Also one of the solutions how Tait and Nick could have a baby, I think that was too convenient and since this happen to get one of my favourite characters out of the picture, I wasn’t happy, at all.

Tait is an aspiring young journalist, who wants to stand up for others while he cannot stand up for himself. He lost his parents and concentrates on writing about issues that he considers important; he wants to make a difference. Through chance, he was selected to do a special series about the NASA program and one of the aspiring astronauts Nick Sullivan. Nick was the second lead character but I did not warm up to him the same way as I did to Tait. I understand that he was under some pressure but if he truly loved Tait, I really don’t know why he married Eleanor. She was the worst person to marry and he paid the price but I truly didn’t understand why he didn’t fight for Tait, didn’t go after him. He told Tait that he believed everything is possible but then gave up, on his dream on his love. I was disappointed in Nick and wanted to tell him to grow some balls, Alex had bigger ones, that for sure.

Tait is honest and somewhat naive but sweet. He could not bring himself to reduce heating costs in winter, because of his fish; he would rather reduce his own food money (sweet). He is idealistic and wants to write and inform about the human suffering, he is not interested in the fame and money but really cares and it shows in his work. Tait is no hero in the conventional sense, with his shyness and gentle manners but he has some hidden strength and fire that serve him well. It’s with him that we travel to Vietnam and Cambodia to see the war scenes and the human toll. The description of these places and his experiences was vivid; I could see the bustle of the markets, the jungle and the people. I felt for the people, for Tait’s loss, and his silent courage.

Tait, well it’s his story and it is told masterfully, writing, storytelling, storyline, characters are beautifully done. I read the first book by this author and liked it a lot for a debut novel and this one is even better, considering the time period, Vietnam War and the 70s and 80s are not my favourite period to read about involving a gay relationship, but I loved this book.

One of my favourite character was the camerawoman Alex, she was brave, determined, cursing fighting and in your face, but she was also caring and had an integrity I had to admire. She was someone I would love to know and be friends with, someone to admire.

Then there was Eleanor, I could have liked Eleanor, with her degree in political science and her aspirations but she was a character that nearly ruined the book for me. After all is said and done Nick might have forgiven her, but I do not understand why. She was a manipulative, ruined his life, career, and nearly cost him the love of his life. Of course, nothing is all black and white and there were moments where one could feel sorry for her, the important word is could. Eleanor might have had her reasons but Alex loved Tait and did not ruin his life but helped him and was at his side, supported him and was happy for him. When he found Nick, she did not try to manipulate her way into a marriage; it was not who she was. She remained true to herself in a time where this was not easy.

So there I was, loving Alex and Tait, disappointed in Nick and strongly disliking Eleanor. Tait and Alex realized their dreams, fought for them, got hurt, experience loss but really did make a difference in the lives of people. I found myself wishing Tait would find someone else to stand beside him, someone strong enough to be at his side and to fight for him and not afraid to share his life with him.

I really hope to see more work by this author. I wish it could be made into a movie. Five pants because I loved the book, but I was not happy with how it ended.

5 Pants Off

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