The characters are there, the texture is there, and the colour is certainly there. Anecdotes include the tale of the SpaceX intern who for unknowable reasons thought it would be a good idea to bring a handgun and 100 rounds of ammo on a plane to a military base, and the story of an unfortunate owl caught up in the vent of a launch and dashed off to the medics (and an unknown fate). Everything seems to be in place for a great narrative — until the creeping feeling that something is missing finally catches up with you. This should read like the script of a Frank Capra movie, the little guy taking on the world. Why doesn’t it?
Eric Berger, senior space editor at the Ars Technica website, does a fine job of telling the white-knuckle story of how SpaceX was created in 2002 and came close to collapse several times. Although Liftoff recounts the experiences of many of SpaceX’s brilliant engineers, the near-maniacal Musk is almost always at the heart of the story. His obsession with even the smallest technical details meant he spent up to 90 per cent of his time at SpaceX dealing with precise engineering questions, enabling him to take operational and financial decisions with in-depth knowledge and startling speed.