The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks: The Story of the Helicopter

James R. Chiles, Author . Bantam $25 (354p) ISBN 978-0-553-80447-8

The title of this sprightly history is apt both because of the helicopter's seemingly miraculous ability to float above the earthly realm and pluck mortals from the jaws of disaster, and for the nearly superhuman feats of engineering accomplished in its development. Chiles (Inviting Disaster ) gives an anecdote-studded history of the inspired and eccentric breed of garage mechanics who tamed the helicopter's tendency to tip over in winds, twirl uncontrollably and shake itself to pieces to give us the sturdy, poised aircraft we know today. Gears and aerodynamics don't take over the book. Chiles explores the helicopter's role in history and culture, from its visionary beginnings, when housewives were expected to ferry kids to school in the family chopper, to its heroic age during the Vietnam war, to its present workaday role lifting and hauling, monitoring traffic and car chases, saving victims of flood waters and skyscraper infernos and serving as Hollywood's conveyance of choice for bad guys. Chiles darts about this landscape, sometimes cruising through a lucid narrative of technological development, sometimes hovering awhile to sketch a character study of some “helicoptrian” enthusiast or take in a daring aerial rescue. The result is an engaging blend of pop science and pop culture. (Oct. 30)

Reviewed on: 08/20/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Paperback - 354 pages - 978-0-553-38352-2
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