Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA
Amy Shira Teitel
This book covers some of the same ground as Tom Wolfe's unforgettable The Right Stuff. Amy Shira Teitel starts much earlier--with the emergence of German rocketry in the 1920s. She's no Tom Wolfe, but that's no crime; most people aren't. Unfortunately, she's not particularly anything else either. Breaking the Chains of Gravity is shallow: not much new, not much analysis, not much insight, not much narrative. It reads like a series of blog posts.
That's not to say that it's bad, particularly. It's serviceable. It conveys information. It doesn't go beyond the surface; for example, Teitel doesn't really dig into what Wernher von Braun's actual role in the Nazi rocket program was, or what it meant. ("A war is a war, and when my country is at war, my duty is to help win that war", von Braun is quoted as saying. Well, when your country is NAZI FRICKING GERMANY, maybe you should be, you know, thinking a little more broadly.) She has some interesting pieces, though they aren't novel, and they don't really form a story arc.
In other words, Breaking the Chains of Gravity is a decent enough introduction. It might work well for a YA reader. It won't engage anyone who's not interested in the subject, and it won't surprise anyone who is.
If you haven't read The Right Stuff, what the hell are you doing wasting your time on the Internet? Go read it.