The Two-Headed Eagle

John Biggins, Author
John Biggins, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-14751-8
Open Ebook - 363 pages - 978-1-59013-476-4
Paperback - 360 pages - 978-1-59013-109-1
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-59013-475-7
Open Ebook - 363 pages - 978-1-306-06415-6
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During an event-packed six months in 1916, amid furious fighting on the Eastern front, young Lieutenant Ottokar Prohaska of the Austro-Hungarian navy (last seen in Biggins's The Emperor's Colored Coat) once again finds himself aloft in fragile aircraft, this time as an observer-bomber-navigator. The actual flying is done by Feldpilot-Zugsfuhrer Zoltan Toth, an enlisted man built low to the ground, who becomes Otto's steadfast comrade through one peril after another. Who but Otto would think of hurling a heavy and useless wireless transmitter through the balloon of an enemy airship? Who but Zoltan could fly a biplane whose engine and radiator completely block his view, forcing him to lean out his window like the engineer of a train? The duo ricochet from battle to battle in a war where mustard gas is a standard weapon and the worst opposition comes from a combatant's own leaders, who value statistics over victories. Though the narrative contains vivid, sensual descriptions of the sights and smells of the front line and the trenches, the paucity of dialogue and character development makes it, like its predecessor, more a nonfiction chronicle than a novel. Otto seems merely a peg on which to hang the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the birth of military aviation. Perhaps someday Biggins, who ably conveys the horror and despair of the period, will write the history book simmering within these pages. (Sept.)
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