'Surrounded By Thunder' (Inspire on Purpose)
By: Captain Tom Williams
(Paperback / Inspire on Purpose Publishing / 432 Pages / $17.99)
Description: "Surrounded by Thunder is a story of science-truth more exciting than any science-fiction tale. From his exhaustive interviews with one of America's pioneer rocket scientists, author Tom Williams delivers an enthralling account of how earthlings became spacemen in NASA's early days." - Chris Curle, former CNN News anchor and print journalist.
Verdict: Even though this book was kindly sent to me by Captain Tom Williams late last year with all there is to do in an entertainment office finding time to read it stretched me over into late last month! That said I truly now wish I'd read sooner and quicker as it is one incredible act of storytelling, let me tell you!
From the off, as a full moon rises over a snowy Iowa landscape, and the facts about Darrell Loan are brought slowly forth, you lock into this story like your own life depended on it.
To give you a brief synopsis for 'Surrounded By Thunder: The Story of Darrell Loan and the Rocketmen' (one of the greatest book titles I've ever heard given the subject matter and now just-recently awarded the gold medal in the Florida Book Awards!) is a first hand narrative on the evolution of the NASA space program.
Darrell Loan is a retired NASA (National Aeronautical and Space Administration) employee. Loan’s career with NASA spanned many decades but this book focuses mostly on a 12 year period of his life. That period begins when the Russians launched fear into America’s hearts with a 23" shiny metal sphere known only to us all as “Sputnik”.
Indeed, for all those unknowing on the subject, the “Sputnik” was the first artificial satellite put into Earth's orbit. Sure all it could do was float whilst emitting a steady radio frequency beep, but it signaled the dawn of the "Space Age," that's for sure.
Anyway, to get back on literary track here, 'Surrounded By Thunder' (Williams' third book) gives us an insight into how those who lived through those times in the 60's must have felt. The highs and lows are all captured here by Captain Williams along with the pulsating pressure of the "contest" between the US and USSR to reach the moon - and seemingly the stars beyond them too!
So, when Darrell Loan graduates from University of Iowa in 1957 with an aeronautical engineering degree, his first job is at the Sperry Corporation which lands him a top job at NASA within the following five years.
Loan then works side by side with Werner von Braun and other leading German engineers as the race to dominate space intensifies. Indeed, the first Russian and American pilots are launched atop volatile rockets and sent into space, primitive style in reflection and narrative both.
Captain William's writing style is always interesting, always revealing, always factual. Colorful too, of course, as in the moments that open chapter seven when Loan has to deal with a malfunctioning guidance system. As an unattached circuit board falls out of place, backed by a "spaghetti tangle of multicolored wires" you can just picture it happening so vividly.
In closing, most of the people that either go to read this book or end up reading it might well not even understand that all of these facts really happened. The danger that was associated with that period of time, the fear that gripped not only a nation but a world, and the bravery and knowledge of men like Loan are now here for all to take on board - in black and white. Read, digest and enjoy - and be thankful, my friends.
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
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