One of the least often explored aspects of human behavior provides the central conflict of this book: how much a job molds a man and influences his reactions under stress. The characters are surviving passengers and crew of the Phoenix, downed during a Sahara sandstorm and by-passed by rescue planes. In flight, the aging pilot, Frank Towns, was the unquestioned leader. After the crash, Towns' hopelessness is confirmed -- not only had he failed to qualify as a jet pilot, he had failed at the controls of the old workhorse plane he'd wrecked. On the floor of the desert, the power structure within the group was fluid. Various possible leaders rise only to be rejected for cause until Stringer, a repulsive genius type declares that he is an aircraft designer and that the only hope is to build a new plane from the wreckage of the old. Driving the thirst dazed, malcontent crew, the megalomaniac Stringer starts to create a plane. Only one man finds out that Stringer is a designer of toy planes. To announce this would mean loss of hope which is as essential as the water that the men are literally wringing out of the sand. This is top notch storytelling well balanced with a purpose. The vivid survival/adventure is replete with fascinating mechanical detail, indicating a masculine audience sure to be satisfied.