October Sky

1298 Words6 Pages
Throughout the summer of 1958, explosions rocked the hills and hollows near Coalwood, West Virginia. The first blasts terrified miners and their families. Had the mine blown up? Were the Russians attacking? But when the echoes died away, folks shrugged and said, "It's just those damn rocket boys!"

The book seems to have the required elements; a noble, inquisitive young kid overcoming hurdles placed in front of him by family, location and education to achieve success, both in the short and long term. Throw in a little danger, teen-age angst, and a sexual coming-of-age subplot, and all the required elements for an engrossing story are there. Despite Hickam's less than stellar prose, the story manages to effectively convey a bittersweet poignancy as the humble coal miner's son journeys to the epitome of technological status: becoming a literal "rocket scientist".

While most of his peers in Coalwood, W.Va., in the late 1950s were enjoying their last years of sunlight before starting work in the mine that was the town's only industry and while most of the girls were enjoying their last few years of not being a miner's wife, Hickam was building rockets. Not bottle rockets, either, but the real things.

As a young high-schooler in 1957, Hickam was fascinated by the early stages of the cold-war space race. Sputnik had just been launched by the Soviet Union, and the U.S. was trying desperately to answer the feat. But in the earliest stages of experimentation, Hickam had about as much success as the pre-NASA American rocketeers were having. While Werner von Braun's early efforts- one jeeringly dubbed "Kaputnik" by the press- often blew up on the pa...

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Ultimately, Rocket Boys is about much more than rockets. As Hickam states, "Until I began to build and launch rockets, I didn't know my hometown was at war with itself over its children and that my parents were locked in a kind of bloodless combat over how my brother and I would live our lives. I didn't know that if a girl broke your heart, another girl, virtuous at least in spirit, could mend it on the same night. And I didn't know that the enthalpy decrease in a converging passage could be transformed into jet kinetic energy if a divergent passage was added. The other boys discovered their own truths when we built our rockets, but those were mine."

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