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Ex-Marine fighter pilot Mark Lewis is out to break the world's records in high altitude and distance for a sailplane, or glider. Goading but also helping and instructing him is Jennifer O'Halloran, the daughter of the sailplane's designer Frank, and sister of Mark's best Marine fighter buddy John; Jennifer is all ice towards Mark because he was flying wing protection for John when groundfire caught him on the last day of Vietnam hostilities. Mark was also a U-2 pilot for a year, and so the novel moves backward from his record sailplane attempt to his fatal flight with John in a powered craft to his high altitude work in the difficult U-2. And the big danger comes at 60,000 feet when the sailplane flips in the near-vacuum, drops three miles out of control and may disintegrate because of over-speeding. The added attraction here: Mark happens to be a rather mystical pilot given to philosophical soliloquies about the glories of flight, much in the manner of Richard Bach's Stranger to the Ground. A thinking-man's flight novel is rare and reasonably welcome, but let's hope Joss' next flight has a richer mix in its characterizations and less conventional plotting.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1978
Publisher: Morrow