Flying higher

19 01 2019

The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock

With echoes of Raymond Carver as well as Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff and Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road, The Last Pilot re-ignites the thrill and excitement of the space race through the story of one man’s courage in the face of unthinkable loss.

Set against the backdrop of one of the most emotionally charged periods in American history, The Last Pilot begins in the bone-dry Mojave Desert during the late 1940s, where US Air Force test pilots are racing to break the sound barrier. Among the exalted few is Jim Harrison: dedicated to his wife, Grace, and their baby daughter.

By the 1960s, the space race is underway and Harrison and his colleagues are offered a place in history as the world s first astronauts. But when his young family is thrown into crisis, Jim is faced with a decision that will affect the course of the rest of his life whether to accept his ticket to the moon and at what cost.

It’s a good portrayal of an extraordinary time and place and does capture some of the excitement of the early days of the space race. But at the heart this is a tale of relationships and the absence of what would now be described as work-life balance. Whilst it is tightly written and well crafted, the comparisons with Carver and Hemingway are somewhat overstated. Nevertheless a decent read.

 


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