Novels are sneaky things. A reader never knows when one will capture his attention and for what reasons. That's how it was for me and One Time on Earth by Neil Newton. Newton tries to capture that moment in time for a 15-year-old English boy who's enraptured with the Apollo missions leading up to Apollo 11, when man first steps foot on the moon. It drew me in. I was that geeky kid at that time, explaining the moon missions to the adults in my world who couldn't comprehend the idea of going to the moon. In fact, my grandmother died a decade after the deed, believing it was a lie.
|Times were surely|
Newton does a good job demonstrating the boy's obsessive nature with the event and how he perceives its significance. Set in an English city in the midst of an urbanization project that is tearing down the neighborhood and moving people out, the landscape becomes as foreign as the lunar landscape by the end of the story--some nice symbolism. Newton delves into great detail about the place. It will capture some, but at times it felt over-written. The travelogue adventures of time and place drew me into an England I don't know. I envision this story as a moody British movie ala The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner where the struggles are as much physical as they are emotional and cultural, responding to the change of times and events the late 1960s brought to us.
The dialogue drags a bit in this literary romp, but the subtleties of language along with the verbal sparring are what would have been appropriate in this era. And the one line I thought for sure would have been there ("That's one small step for man, a giant leap for mankind."), was told me in narrative form. Why? This is a top-shelf "4". And if your taste runs to British coming of age stories, some might nudge it up a notch. Well done.