When former astronaut Walter Reddie's nephew is stranded on a space station, Walter does what any red-blooded American would...he convinces his small, southern town to build a homemade rocket to rescue the poor kid. 'Cause after all, kin is kin.
Part South Park, part My Name is Earl, and part Astronaut Farmer, Occupy Space is one of the funniest yet most heartwarming books I've read this year.
To me, the biggest challenge in writing this kind of over-the-top lampoon is to make the characters likeable. The author needs to poking fun of them without being overly cruel. Hendrix is a master at this. By the third page, I was already rooting for Walter Reddie, the washed-up astronaut whose life was in such shambles that he couldn't even 'piss with authority'. Occupy Space is chocked full of these laughable, yet lovable, characters. The tone of this book reminds me of another of my favorite humorous authors, Carl Hiassen.
This book is remarkably well written. Not just because of the hilarious story, but because the author really knew his stuff when it came to the technical details. I realize that no one could really build a rocket in his back forty, yet, while I was reading, I kept thinking, "Well, maybe it could be done..." Actually, I walked away appreciating the complexity of sending a person into space. At the same time, however, the technical details never bogged down the story.
The only thing that kept this book from getting five stars was that I wanted the story to end differently. I'd grown so fond of the characters that I wanted more from them, especially Walter. But overall, this was a remarkable book. I've read other work by Hendrix, and I've come to think of him as a genius of humorous fiction.