This is the third book in Boyne’s trilogy about the Shannons, a family of test pilots whose careers span the years of jet aviation from the first successful jet flight, in 1939, through the trilogy’s end, in 2007. In the previous books, Vance Shannon, a WWI flying ace and renowned test pilot, founded Aerospace Consultants, a firm that grew into a multi-city company involved in “avionics, simulators, precision guided munitions, and the executive jet business.” Vance’s twin sons, Tom and Harry, his grandson, V.R., and his protégé, Bob Rodriquez, all followed in his footsteps (or, more appropriately, “in his jet stream”) as pilots cum businessmen.
When this novel begins (1973), the future of the company is at risk: Vance is retired and unwell, Tom is shattered by his experiences in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp, Harry is preoccupied with his wife’s alcoholism, V.R. is launching his career in the Air Force Academy, and Rod is ensnared by a feud with Tom. While the loves and losses within the Shannon family propel the book forward, the heart of the story is in the never-ending quest for new technology within the aerospace industry. There are many participants in this quest, including NASA, the Air Force, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Lockheed, and, of course, the fictional Aerospace Consultants. We are given glimpses into numerous projects, but the book highlights the development of the Stealth Bomber, the Global Positioning System (GPS), and the Hypersonic Cruiser.
All of this technology may sound a little overwhelming to those who are not aviation enthusiasts, but Boyle does a superb job of intertwining the history of the aerospace industry with the saga of a fictional family. The result is a fascinating story about an industry that is leading mankind beyond the moon and into the future.