From the early 1900's through WW II, dozens of test pilots and daredevils lost their lives in quest of higher speeds. It early became evident that as velocity approached the speed of sound something mysterious and dire transformed a plane into an uncontrolled missile, generally headed straight down. Finally, shapes and configurations were found to minimize the shock waves that constitute the ""sound barrier,"" making supersonic flight an everyday occurrence. Aaseng presents the story of the courageous men--and at least one woman--who laid the ground for Yeager's historic 1947 flight. Yeager not only broke the sound barrier; he had also just broken two ribs, horsing around, a fact he hid from his superiors. HIS tale is colorful and spellbinding; unfortunately, the brief accounts of pioneers and victims preceding it move more slowly. More technical detail would also have been welcome--the difference between a jet engine and a rocket is, for example, never made completely clear. Still, an interesting view of some brave and driven people. Glossary; bibliography; index.