This is a great telling of a great story -- how the Wright brothers came to be the first human beings to accomplish powered, heavier-than-air flight. As this historical novel makes clear, they did it by being the first men to take a methodical, scientific look at what was required to accomplish not only flight, but controlled, competent powered flight. The Wrights were giants--they were years ahead of their rivals. This novel explains that the Wrights first had to originate, from scratch, all of the mathematics and engineering of how to build a true lifting wing. They then had to design, from scratch, a means to control the aircraft in flight by means of warping wing controls--essentially the same methods we use today. These were staggering achievements that the Wrights did not "luck into." On top of these achievements, since there was no suitable gasoline motor to power the Wright Flyer, why, the Wrights simply designed a suitable engine, from scratch, which at the time was the only suitable engine for powered flight on the planet. In point of fact, between Wilbur Wright's methodical, mathematical approach, and Orville Wright's ingenius mechanical aptitude and intuitive grasp of the problem of flight, the Wrights represented a rare combination of scientific rigor and engineering finesse. They were a decade or more ahead of their competition. The best part of this novel is the manner in which it explains in layman's terms what the scientific-engineering problems were that mankind faced circa 1900 to accomplish heavier-than-air flight. The telling of how the Wrights solved these problems makes a great story.
The novel debunks a number of myths that sometimes persist today when the story of early manned flight is told. Professor Langely was not merely unlucky in his attempt to build his "Grand Aerodrome" (a US-government sponsored project to build the first airplane). In reality, like all of the Wright's competitors, he failed to grasp the fundamental problem of flight--the lifting wing and the need to control the aircraft in three dimensions. This is why each of his attempts promptly crashed into the ocean. Not until they frankly copied the Wright concepts and designs did the Wrights' competitors literally get off the ground.
The novel also provides a fascinating look at the business conflicts between the Wrights on the one hand, and their rivals on the others, as the Wrights sought to make an honest profit from their achievements. This is a wonderful story in its own right, told well.
The Wrights were, quite simply, giants. This novel does a fine job of impressing the reader with the magnitude of their achievements, while still showing us that the Wrights (and their colleagues and rivals) were human beings with the usual array of human failings.