With no particular system, the authors of A History of Rocketry and Space Travel (rev. ed., 1969) glance at the early history of incendiaries, the great Renaissance development of fireworks, putative Chinese contributions, and 19th-century chemical and engineering advances in military rocketry. The last three chapters, recounting the sudden 20th-century opening-up of liquid propellant technology, are more cohesive, but even here the book's focus seems undecided. There's not enough continuity of technical detail for a scientific thriller per se, or enough personal and circumstantial detail for a unified journalistic treatment. Tom Lehrer fans will note the casual defense of von Braun's efforts on behalf of the Third Reich on the grounds that Hitler wasn't in power at the-time of his first army research grant; the authors also archly equate any inconvenience the A-4 (V-2) caused people ""at the receiving end of its operational use against London or Antwerp"" with the technical and logistical problems the yon Braun team had in deploying it. We don't believe in imposing ideological straitjackets, but the entire discussion of ""improvements"" in military rocketry--from the 19th-century pioneers to the great ICBMs ""keeping the big powers at peace""--strikes us as thoughtlessly cold-blooded.