With the Soviet Union's launch of the first Sputnik satellite in 1957, the Cold War soared to new heights as Americans feared losing the race into space. The X-15 Rocket Plane tells the enthralling yet little-known story of the hypersonic X-15, the winged rocket ship that met this challenge and opened the way into human-controlled spaceflight.
Drawing on interviews with those who were there, Michelle Evans captures the drama and excitement of, yes, rocket science: how to handle the heat generated at speeds up to Mach 7, how to make a rocket propulsion system that could throttle, and how to safely reenter the atmosphere from space and make a precision landing.
This book puts a human face on the feats of science and engineering that went into the X-15 program, many of them critical to the development of the Space Shuttle. And, finally, it introduces us to the largely unsung pilots of the X-15. By the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing, 31 American astronauts had flown into space - eight of them astronaut-pilots of the X-15. The X-15 Rocket Plane restores these pioneers, and the others who made it happen, to their rightful place in the history of spaceflight.
©2013 Michelle Evans (P)2014 Redwood Audiobooks
"The X-15 Rocket Plane is an engaging account of America's push into space before pilots became astronauts, and America began a new era of exploration beyond the Earth to the Moon." (Space Review)
"In this gripping book, Michelle Evans brings to life the X-15 and the aerospace pioneers who made it a success. For those already aware of the program, this will bring back fond memories and renew an appreciation for the remarkable people who conceived, operated, and supported this incredible craft. For those who aren't, prepare for an incredible journey of discovery." (Richard P. Hallion, former historian of the USAF)
Good listen, some chapters near the end seemed to go off track a bit (X15 related movies etc) which didn't hold my interest so well, but overall pretty good!
Detailed, long, precise
The record breaking feats of daring by the pilots and the realisation the Neal Armstrong was taken off of flight duties
God this this long
If like me you a a die hard fan of all things areonautic and space, then this is the book for you. I can see that the story could have a limited audience to the some muggles
"A Facinating Topic But Mediocre Presentation"
First, let's address the material. If you are expecting a chronological history of the design, development, testing, and implementation of the X-15 planes & program you'll be disappointed. I was. Missing here is virtually anything on where the idea came from, how the planes came to be on the drawing board, details of constructing the three aircraft and of the various rocket motors used. This would have been fascinating material to have included in the book. When you think about it, with 199 flights, each lasting only about 10-15 minutes each, that's only roughly about 40 total hours of flight time for all three planes combined.
Don't get me wrong, the flights themselves are fascinating and a crucial part on any look at the X-15 program. It just seemed like there was too much other "filler" that could have been spent on the actual engineering, construction, and modification of the planes. But, perhaps understandably, the author's focus was more on the human interest side of the program.
What you do have is an overview of the careers of the X-15 pilots and the test flights each of them made. That's fine, but still, not in chronological order. What the author does is take each pilot one-by-one, starting from the first to the last, and lays out their careers and details many of the test flights that they participated in. Since each chapter focuses on one pilot alone the narrative often overlaps with material in other chapters. Naturally, this approach also means that there is quite a bit of leaping back and forth from one time frame to another as a new chapter begins. This took a while to get use to and was very confusing at first because I was frequently getting lost in what year we were in while listening. Also, this style, in a way, spoils some of the potential drama later in the book, and one event in particular near the end could have been more dramatic except for it being completely spoiled by a reference to it earlier in the book.
Now to the narration. Yes, as others have observed, this was not the best choice in narrator. The voice was so monotone, droning, and slow (I mean SLOW!) that I had to increase the play speed to 1.5X just to make the listening experience more interesting and lively. That actually made the the material quite listenable.
Just before the book was finished yesterday I adjusted the speed back to 1X just to see if I was exaggerating. No! I couldn't believe how plodding the reading was and how accustomed to 1.5X I had become. I would never have made it to the finish at normal speed. It really made it hard to concentrate and I was missing key dates, names, and locations because the reading was sleep inducing. Running it at 1.5X was much better.
All of this might seem like a negative review, but that's not entirely the case. Overall, I did come around to enjoying the book. But the material and presentation could have been much better except for the aspects I mention above.
"Great detailed history of the X-15"
Very detailed history and breakdown if each pilot. I just found the reading very monotonous, like a reading of the phone book. I had to stop many times and come back to it, it kind of droned on.
"This narrator really stunk up a wonderfull story"
I would recommend that they read this book instead of listening to it.... .because the narrator pauses.... in places that don't...... make sense. Very distracting to the story.
This..... narrator pauses.... often, and in very unusual places.
The X-15 Rocket Plane inspired me to write a review as the the narrator detracted so noticeably from this amazing story.
"Great book, poor presentation"
It's too long for that.
The reader inserts pauses and emphasis in inappropriate places. The use of pauses and stressing of words should be consistent with, and support the text. In this book, they detract from it. I'm only half way through the book, but I'm considering abandoning it because I find the presentation so distracting.
"Most thorough and honest book on X-15 you'll find"
If you have any sort of substantial interest in the X-15 you'll want to read this excellent book on the program. While the primary focus is on the pilots, Evans succeeded in getting a truly wide array of those involved in the project on every level to reflect deeply, and talk honestly, about the successes and failures of the program, both in terms of hardware and the very real humanity of the participants. It's very well written and truly brimming with information and insights, large portions of which I had never encountered before.
As it follows the careers of the pilots you'll find triumphs and tragedies (sorry about the cliche) on personal as well as professional levels. Because Evans looks at entire careers there is also quite a bit of information about the manned space program. People name names in their often pointed observations and even outright criticisms. But the book is not gossipy or prurient.
I found the reading uneven and sometimes bothersome. Seeing as how the author is a woman I would have preferred a female reader. The performer had, I thought, an odd cadence and unusual inflections that I found off-putting at times. But these are quibbles.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely search for other works by Michelle Evans.
"Good, But Understand What It Is"
This is an interesting book with an exhaustive (some would probably say "exhausting") amount of material. Understand what this book is: It is essentially a series of biographies of the pilots who flew the X-15, focusing on their time in the X-15 program. It is not overly technical, although it does cover the capabilities and limitations of the plane quite well.
The biographies are written in the chronological order in which the pilots flew the plane. The problem with this approach is that the pilots' time with the planes (there were three X-15s) overlapped. As a result, facts are repeated and the timeline jumps back and forth. The approach also makes the book unnecessarily long.
The author should be praised for what appears to be detailed and diligent research. This is important history that should be preserved. Her writing is a little stilted and overly detailed (much like military reports), and probably quotes post-flight reports too liberally. (The pilots tend to write their reports in a somewhat off-putting style, often using the third person and stating almost everything in passive voice). Nevertheless, she moves through the material on each pilot.
What the book could really have used is a good editor. I would have preferred the book to move in a chronological order with the biographical detail woven in. This would have resulted in a better read.
A word of warning on the narration: Others have criticized the pace and unnatural pauses. I think the pace is fine, but agree that some of the pauses seem strange. But the major reservation I have is that the narrator's voice is grating. He speaks with a very high pitched and nasal upper Midwestern accent. Listen to the sample to make sure you are ready for 18 hours of this.
Good information on the X15, but a long book and detailed out dryly. I would have preferred a read to a listen on this. I don't think it is the fault of the Narrator but the material, it listens almost like a tech manual with a little personal detail.
"Exceptional detail of the X-15 program"
Exceptionally well detailed account of the X-15 program, with great information on each pilot and what they did in the program.
I get that the narrator is trying to put pauses in to break up the narration. But by the end, I was getting frustrated with the number of superfluous, or incorrectly placed, pauses that sometimes even changed the meaning of the sentence.
"Very detailed backstories, almost to a fault"
Really enjoyed the details and anecdotes about the X-15, the biographical details on the pilots and especially their family history was a bit drawn out.
"Could not get into this book"
To have a professional read the book
No. This is a long book, which would be fine if it were not littered with stories and facts that had nothing to do with the X-15 or the characters that played a part in it.
This narrator is not blessed with a good voice for this kind of book. I thought it would improve as the book went on - I was incorrect.
I could only listen to one hour of this book before I had to get out.
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