Nuking the Moon: And Other Intelligence Schemes and Military Plots Left on the Drawing Board

Vince Houghton. Penguin, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-52550-517-4
As International Spy Museum historian Houghton recounts in his entertaining first book, driven by pressure to gain an edge over WWII and Cold War adversaries, some of the U.S.’s smartest researchers dreamed up crazy military and espionage schemes that were ultimately consigned to the dustbin. He begins with “Acoustic Kitty”—the project’s official name—a CIA plan to turn cats into listening devices (in one iteration, an antenna was woven down a test subject’s spine) that failed because cats, stubbornly difficult to train in even simple tasks, made poor spies. He moves on from other, often cruel ideas involving animals to plots such as “Operation Monopoly” (the aborted digging of a tunnel to allow for spying on the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C.), a proposal to try redirecting hurricanes by exploding nuclear bombs inside of them, and several other frightening projects involving nuclear weapons, including the book’s titular idea, in which a young Carl Sagan was involved. “When innovation and desperation meet, trouble will usually follow. If necessity is the mother of invention, desperation is the drunk uncle,” Houghton quips. Alternately terrifying and hilarious, this book leaves the reader wondering what bizarre schemes are in the works in today’s top-secret corridors of power. Agent: Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary Agency. (May)
Reviewed on : 04/04/2019
Release date: 05/14/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-14-313340-7
Book - 978-0-525-50518-1
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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