Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sky Birds Dare! by L. Ron Hubbard (aviator pulp adventure audio)

I am continually impressed at the breadth of material produced by author L. Ron Hubbard during the second half of the 1930s. He wrote everything from Westerns and suspense to adventures of the air, sea, and foreign lands. First published in the September 1936 issue of Five Novels Monthly, Sky Birds Dare!, as its title suggests, centers around aviation.

Breeze Callahan is one of the best glider pilots around. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean much in the age of motors. Though Breeze's gliders would keep a plane in the air after its motor failed — and would be able to soar into enemy territory without a sound — the Navy is more interested in the training ships of Breeze's rival, Badger O'Dowell, for the war effort.

Breeze has to prove that his gliders are good enough, and that he is good enough for the hand of Patty Donegan (his designer's daughter) — who has recently taken a shine to sailors — even if he has to crash and burn to do it.

As is fairly common in Hubbard's fiction, narration carries the day over dialogue in Sky Birds Dare!, allowing the author to display the extensive knowledge he seems to have gleaned from his time as president of the George Washington University Glider Club. (The promotional materials from Galaxy Audio often emphasize how much of Hubbard's verisimilitude came from personal experience.)

Regular narrator R.F. Daley once again puts his all into delivering the power of the words. And some of Hubbard's most effective prose is in Sky Birds Dare! — during the soar in chapter 3. Every detail is painted from the POV of the cockpit, first the exhilaration of flying, then when things start to go wrong, the fear and rush of thoughts. I felt like I was in the glider with Breeze, and that's precisely what I want from escapist fiction.

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