Spaceflight Insider

Review ‒ Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk with Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Photo Credit: SpaceX

The first biographical publication by technology writer Ashlee Vance is an investigative account of the life of Elon Musk and how the entrepreneur is working to disrupt the solar, space flight, and transportation industries. Entitled Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, the book highlights a life of triumph and tragedy.

There have been attempts to compare Elon Musk with the fictional super hero character Tony Stark (Iron Man) and is constantly compared to Steve Jobs. Vance gives plenty of background information on what it took for Musk to begin and maintain his companies.

Elon Musk Tesla SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future image credit Harper Collins posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Image Credit: Harper Collins

“When Elon gets into something, he develops just this different level of interest in it than other people. That is what differentiates Elon from the rest of humanity (p. 51),” Navaid Farooq, Musk’s former dorm mate at Queen’s University said.

The book opens by showing how a tumultuous childhood of bullying and a verbally abusive father shaped the life of a man who taught himself how to code and sold his first video game at age 12.

Vance received full details of Musk’s management style by interviewing current and past co-workers. Although driven by his vision, his creativity and perfectionism either drives people to work for him or pushed them away. Musk addressed this in a few tweets.

So far, this book is the most definitive account of Musk’s life, rich with details and several narratives, mostly provided by the man himself. This did not come easy for Vance, who pursued Musk’s cooperation, but was turned down several times.

Vance dedicates chapters specifically to SpaceX and Tesla; these chapters help to provide a rare insight into the motivating factors that helped form these companies. Through more than 50 hours of correspondence with Musk, the book details the bold technological risks and private tragedies, including the loss of Musk’s first son.

One of the benefits for those buying this book are the sixteen pages of glossy, color photos. A few of which have never been seen before, which were provided by Maye Musk, Elon’s mother.

Overall, the book is a good read. However, while Vance provides new information gained from hundreds of interviews, “Elon Musk” seems to jump around a bit. It’s definitely not your typical biography.

Moreover, the reader has to constantly flip to the appendix or read the many footnotes in order to gain a full appreciation of what is being discussed. No sooner does the reader begin to read a passage, then they are caught up in footnotes, some of which last a few pages, only to get lost once back at the main text.

Although the “Elon Musk” book is a comprehensive biography, readers are sure to be left with a more eye-opening appreciation for Musk’s tenacity. This book is for anyone who enjoys technology or is looking for inspiration as to why they should never give up their dreams.

Published by Harper Collins, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, is a must-read at 400 pages and retails for $28.99 (U.S.) and $32.50 (Canada). While not perfect, the book is a good read and provides rare insights into the mind of the man who is working to revolutionize the technologies of the 21st Century.



Heather Smith's fascination for space exploration – started at the tender age of twelve while she was on a sixth-grade field trip in Kenner, Louisiana, walking through a mock-up of the International Space Station and seeing the “space potty” (her terminology has progressed considerably since that time) – she realized at this point that her future lay in the stars. Smith has come to realize that very few people have noticed how much spaceflight technology has improved their lives. She has since dedicated herself to correcting this problem. Inspired by such classic literature as Anne Frank’s Diary, she has honed her writing skills and has signed on as The Spaceflight Group’s coordinator for the organization’s social media efforts.

Reader Comments

Given the path Mr. Musk used to explore his understanding-curiosity…learning what he did not know by finding out. Elon Musk knows things not studied or well understood by others who took different paths. It seems appropriate that we would not know all the same things to his level of understanding. And I think the book seems to become interactive and representative of the subject.-Ernie Moore Jr.

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