Nuking the Moon by Vince Houghton

Nuking the Moon Cover

Publisher: Profile Books (Trade Paperback – 3 December 2019)

Series: Stand alone/Book One

Length: 296 pages

My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Have you ever been curious about the craziest top secret plans the world’s top militaries and intelligence agencies ever came up with? Well, wonder no longer as Vince Houghton, curator of the International Spy Museum, presents Nuking the Moon: And Other Intelligence Schemes and Military Plots Best Left on the Drawing Board, a hilarious collection of some of the most over-the-top, insane or ahead-of-their-time military and intelligence ideas that were ever thought up.

Before we start getting too far into this review, I feel I need to point out that this is actually the first review of a non-fiction book that I have ever featured on this blog. Over the last few years, I have not really read any non-fiction books, mainly because I suffered an overload of them at university. However, the moment I received Nuking the Moon, I knew that really needed to read it. That says a lot about how interesting the content was to me, as it takes a lot for me to actually sit down and read a non-fiction book cover to cover. However, I have always enjoyed reading about some of the weirdest moments in human history, especially as in many cases reality can be so much weirder than fiction. Nuking the Moon certainly sounded like it would be right up my alley, and I am so glad I decided to try it as this book proved to be an amazingly entertaining read with some truly outrageous historical accounts that were a lot of fun to learn about.

In Nuking the Moon, Houghton has written a detailed account about the history of 21 different projects, operations or schemes that were implemented, attempted or researched to some degree by a government, military, intelligence agency or private company. Each of these different projects and operations have their own chapter within this book, which is then broadly broken up into four separate sections, Adventures in the Animal Kingdom, Astonishing Operations, Truly Extraordinary Technology and “Fun” with Nuclear Weapons. The vast majority of these planned operations originated in America and the United Kingdom, and pretty much all of them were researched during the course of either World War II or the Cold War, when bold ideas were encouraged.

The first thing you need to know about Nuking the Moon is that it contains a fantastic and unique range of different historical projects and plans examined within it. There are some really entertaining and intriguing stories from history contained within this book, and while I was vaguely familiar with a few of them, the vast majority were actually completely unknown to me. This speaks not only to the obscure or hidden nature of many of these projects but also to the research ability and knowledge base of the author, which guarantees that the reader is bound to find out something new in this book. There are some truly interesting stories within this book, including the titular plan to nuke the moon, scientists implanting listening devices into trained cats, chickens being housed inside nuclear landmines to keep the electronics from freezing, misinformation campaigns about death rays, satellites containing sun guns, research into creating tidal waves with explosives, ill-advised attempts to disperse cyclones with nuclear bombs and so much more. I found all of these topics to be deeply fascinating and I think many readers will be amazed at some of things that these people came up with.

While I really enjoyed nearly every unique plan contained within this book, there were a few that really stood out for me and ended up being my favourite entries. This includes a particularly fun research project by the Allies into the viability of creating massive battleships out of ice, which I think Houghton did a really good job explaining. Not only is this chapter deeply intriguing, especially as this wild idea apparently had a huge amount of support from the American and English governments, but the author paints a great picture about the work and historical personalities involved. I particularly enjoyed the stories about how Lord Mountbatten, the head of the project, thought that the best way to show off the viability of his project to interested dignitaries was to repeatedly shoot the proposed construction material with a range of different guns.

I was also a big fan of the five separate chapters that detailed some extraordinary plans to utilise animals as weapons or intelligence assets. Two of these entries in particular were deeply fascinating and I really enjoyed learning about them. The first of these was a plan to turn bats into lethal weapons by loading them up with explosives. The reasoning behind this plan is quite dubious, and what is amazing is that it actually made it to testing, with particularly disastrous results. The mental picture that Houghton is able to conjure up while describing these tests is extremely hilarious, and it was an extremely entertaining entry for the front part of the book. The second animal-related project that was a personal highlight was another plan by the Allies to paint foxes with luminous paint and set them lose in front of an army invading Japan. The idea was that the Japanese, whose culture features many stories about foxes being a form of supernatural trickster, would be terrified by the sight of the glowing foxes and flee in terror before the Americans. This is probably one of the stories that Houghton is most scornful of, and it was really entertaining to see him tear into the inherent racism behind this plan. I also particularly liked hearing about the various setbacks involved with plan, as well as the chain of events that led to a horde of luminous foxes being released in the middle of New York. The three above chapters were easily the highpoint of the book for me, and I reckon a lot of people would enjoy learning more about the amazing plans they contained.

Now, while a lot of the various chapters in this book were absolutely fantastic to read, Nuking the Moon did have a couple of parts to it that did slightly reduce my overall enjoyment of the book. For example, I personally found the Astonishing Operations section of the book to be a little less interesting than the other major parts of the book. Sitting between the chapters that dealt with animals and weird technology, the Astonishing Operations were nowhere near as “astonishing” as some of the other parts of the book. Don’t get me wrong, some of these chapters were pretty interesting, and I did enjoy reading about the various operations, but they seemed to pale in comparison after the truly over-the-top tales told in the other parts of the book. That being said, some of these stories dragged a little, and I also thought that a couple were a bit unnecessary in their inclusion.

I felt that Houghton did an excellent job of fully exploring the various projects and operations that are featured within this book. Each of the chapters within Nuking the Moon contains quite a bit of detail about the history of the entire plan, including who came up with it, who approved it and the various people who were involved (it is actually quite amazing some of the major historical figures who had a hand in these intriguing projects). He then details the entire design process and testing phases of these projects, examining the results, including the surprising successes and disastrous failures that occurred, and then finally looking at why it was cancelled or suspended. There are some interesting historical examinations involved with each chapter, as Houghton attempts to look over all the relevant details associated with the plans or projects. I particularly liked that he examined the historical context around these proposed ideas, and actually tries to explain why the various creators thought that something this unusual or dangerous was actually necessary. I also appreciated that he looked at the impacts or future implications of some of the projects, as well as some of the connections that they have to modern technology. Overall, I think that the author did an incredible job exploring the various topics contained within this book, and I really enjoyed learning about the full extent of these projects and about how far they actually progressed.

I was also a big fan of the sarcastic and humorous writing style that Houghton utilised for most of the book. I really enjoyed this light-hearted and comedic tone, and it was definitely the perfect way to explore such outrageous and eccentric ideas and concepts. Houghton made sure to fill each chapter with a ton of funny jokes and observations, as well as some clever takedowns of parts of, or the entirety of, the plans being discussed, and I had some great laughs as I worked my way through Nuking the Moon. That being said, I do think that the author did get a bit off-topic at times, which had a slight negative impact on the flow of the book. While he does take a sarcastic approach to these ideas, Houghton is not as critical as he could have been; instead in some of the chapters he actually tries to see the concept from its creator’s point of view and explain why they thought it was a good idea. He also makes sure to highlight in the introduction that even though the projects contained within this book may seem ridiculous, if that had actually succeeded, we would consider them to be works of absolute genius. I like this slightly fairer examination of some of these entries, and it was definitely better than reading a book completely filled with negatively.

Nuking the Moon by Vince Houghton is a fun and fascinating non-fiction book that did a wonderful job of capturing, exploring and satirising some of the weirdest attempted plans and operations from the military and intelligence worlds. This is an exceedingly entertaining read which I think will appeal to a wide range of readers, and I would definitely recommend it. I actually hope that Houghton thinks about doing another book detailing some of the other crazy plans, projects and operations (because let’s face it, there are bound to be some other pretty unbelievable and true stories out there), as I for one would really be interested in see what other amazingly bad ideas people have come up with.

WWW Wednesday – 8 January 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Just Watch Me, Deathwatch Covers.png

Just Watch Me by Jeff Lindsay (Trade Paperback)

I just started reading this book today and I am already halfway through it.  So far it is an extremely fun heist novel and I am excited to see where it goes.

Deathwatch: Shadowbreaker by Steve Parker (Audiobook)

I was in the mood for something a little different so I thought I would check out this Warhammer 40,000 novel.  I am about three hours in at this point and so far it is an interesting read.


What did you recently finish reading?


Magnus and the Crossroads Brotherhood
by Robert Fabbri (Hardcover)

Magnus and the Crossroads Brotherhood Cover


A Little Hatred
by Joe Abercrombie (Audiobook)

A Little Hatred Cover


Nuking the Moon
by Vince Houghton (Trade Paperback)

Nuking the Moon Cover


Lost
by James Patterson and James O. Born (Trade Paperback)

Lost Cover

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell (Trade Paperback)

Sword of Kings Cover

I swear I’ll get around to reading this book at some point.

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 25 December 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Magnus and the Crossroads Brotherhood by Robert Fabbri (Hardcover)

Magnus and the Crossroads Brotherhood Cover.jpg

I only just started reading this book a little while ago and have not made too much progress with it yet.  Magnus and the Crossroads Brotherhood is a collection of short stories which follow one of the supporting characters in Fabbri’s Vespasian series, the titular Magnus, as he navigates the dangerous criminal underbelly of ancient Rome.  As Fabbri is one of my favourite authors, I was very excited to get a copy of this, and it should hold me over until Fabbri’s next book, To the Strongest, comes out in a few months.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie (Audiobook)

A Little Hatred Cover

I am still going with A Little Hatred and I will hopefully get it finished by this time next week.  It is a really good book though, and I am really enjoying listening to it.

Nuking the Moon by Vince Houghton (Trade Paperback)

Nuking the Moon Cover

I have not actually made any progress with this book since last week, but I am planning to try and read a bit more of it and will hopefully finish it off soon.

What did you recently finish reading?

Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward (Trade Paperback)

Legacy of Ash Cover
I made an effort to read a lot of Legacy of Ash this week, and managed to finish it off.  It was a pretty good book in the end, and I will get a review of it up soon.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell (Trade Paperback)

Sword of Kings Cover
That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 18 December 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward (Trade Paperback)

Legacy of Ash Cover

I am still powering through with this one, hopefully I will finish it off by this time next week.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie (Audiobook)

A Little Hatred Cover

I just started this audiobook this morning and so far it is really amazing.  It is a compelling sequel to The First Law trilogy and I am quite enjoying it.

Nuking the Moon by Vince Houghton (Trade Paperback)

Nuking the Moon Cover

An interesting non-fiction novel about some of the craziest military plans and espionage schemes ever hatched.  This is a lot of fun and I glad I decided to check it out.

What did you recently finish reading?

Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn (Audiobook)

Star Wars Scoundrels Cover.jpg

This was a really outstanding novel that combined together a fun heist storyline with iconic Star Wars science fiction elements.  Hoping to get a review of it up soon, although it’s going to be a busy week.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell (Trade Paperback)

Sword of Kings Cover
That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – 15 December 2019

Another week, another great collection of books that I have been lucky enough to receive.  I have recently managed to pick up quite a few intriguing sounding books, all of which I am quite keen to check out in the future.  Interestingly, unlike most of my previous Book Haul posts, I have not had the pleasure of reading anything from the authors featured below before, and I am looking forward to sampling their work.

The Throne of the Five Winds by S. C. Emmett

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This is a massive fantasy novel that sounds like it is going to have a huge focus on political intrigue.  This is one that I am extremely excited to read, although, at over 650 pages in length its going to take a bit of effort to get through.

Genesis by Robin Cook

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A cool sounding medical mystery thriller that looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Tom Clancy’s Code of Honour by Marc Cameron

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The latest book in Tom Clancy’s massive Jack Ryan universe, which follows the titular character, Jack Ryan, who is currently President of the United States, as he attempts to stop another threat to America.  I have never read any of the Jack Ryan books before, but I am hoping that Code of Honour will prove to be a fantastic introduction to the series.

Lost by James Patterson & James O. Born

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Robert Patterson is another massive author whose work I have never had the chance to check out before.  This latest book from Patterson and his co-author James O. Born introduces a brand new protagonist, Tom Moon, and should prove to be an excellent crime thriller.

How to Play Dead by Jacqueline Ward

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How to Play Dead sounds like a pretty dark thriller from author Jacqueline Ward, and it should be an interesting one to check out.

Nuking the Moon by Vince Houghton

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Nuking the Moon is a really fun non-fiction novel about some of the craziest spy and military schemes ever conceived.  I actually started reading this one out of interest and there are some amazing and near unbelievable stories in there.
All in all, not a bad book haul.  I have managed to pick up some real gems here and I think all of them are going to be excellent reads.