Originally written as a sequence of short stories, this novel follows the WWII Pacific theatre service of Steve Larkin, a P-38 Lightning pilot, and his childhood friend, Blake Elwell, a B-24 Liberator pilot. Though not stationed together, they often work together as the P-38 fighters escort the B-24 bombers on missions. Both encounter terrifying but vastly different types of combat. Steve is constantly swooping and turning in his fighter in an attempt to out fly his Japanese adversaries in their Zeroes, while Blake must maintain a nerve-shattering, steady course en route to and during the bombing run. The one additional viewpoint in the book comes from the flight surgeon of Steve’s squadron, known simply as Doc. Doc is way too involved and protective of his pilots, and the stress begins to tear him apart.
Spencer’s mélange of stories is nicely pulled together with one minor exception. The majority of the story focuses on Steve and Doc, while Blake, especially toward the end, is somewhat forgotten. It’s almost as if one of the short stories that make up this book got lost during the printing. Nonetheless, this is an interesting glimpse into the closed-in, nightmare world of aerial combat.