________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 11 . . . .February 4, 2005


Final Frontier: Voyages into Outer Space.

David Owen.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2004.
128 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55297-775-7 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55297-776-5 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Outer space-Explorations-Juvenile fiction.
Astronautics-Popular works.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Thomas Chambers.

***1/2 /4



Carrying that precious cargo in a sack slung over his shoulder, a Polish Resistance agent cycled 200 miles (320 kilometers) through the retreating German army. He and the sack reached the landing ground on July 26 and awaited the DC3 that had left from Brindisi, Italy. Then, to the horror of the Poles hidden alongside the airfield, two German fighters arrived. Had they been betrayed, and were these Nazi fighters waiting for the RAF plane?

To their intense relief, the fighters started up and took off as darkness fell. Just before midnight the DC3 landed, and the V2 parts and drawings were hastily loaded on board. But when the aircraft tried to take off, its tires stuck in the mud from recent heavy rain. As the DC3's engines ran at full power, their roar echoed across the silent countryside. The courageous plan seemed doomed.

Local farmers saved the day. They tore down nearby fences and laid the planks on the field to take the weight of the aircraft. With spades and their bare hands, they scrabbled away at the mud around the wheels. Finally the plane began to move, slowly reaching takeoff speed. As it vanished into the night, the German forces arrived, running into a resistance ambush. Within three days the parts and the drawings were safely in London.

Final Frontier covers all aspects of mankind's desire to learn more about space. It is divided into ten chapters covering such diverse topics as astronomy, the space shuttle, the solar system and how society has benefitted from the desire to learn more about space. It is well researched and very thorough. It is ideal for classroom use and should stimulate the reader's interest in "the final frontier."

     Because the subject matter of each chapter stands alone, they could be used as individual units. Students could be assigned to make presentations on the different topics. Each chapter also comes with special colour sections dealing with specific topics belonging to the general theme of the chapter. Chapter 7 on Space Stations, for example, has two pages titled "Living In Zero Gravity." These special sections could also form the basis for assignments or presentations.

     Final Frontier has both a brief glossary and an index. It is also illustrated throughout with functional, mainly colour photographs. Some of these are quite spectacular, and they add greatly to the book's usefulness. The occasional unusual term used in the book is not included in the glossary. One example is cryogenic engine. Another is vernier retro motors. Since a glossary is used, all such terms should be included in it. The addition of a brief bibliography would have been useful.

     Author David Owen is a multi-talented man. He is a professional engineer who writes and produces TV documentaries. Before Final Frontier, he wrote a number of other books including Spies and Police Labs. This latest book gives an accurate account of man's desire to learn more about space. It is topical, interesting and fun to read. The writing style is sophisticated, but the intended audience should not find this a problem.

     Many of the stories Owen includes in the book are very exciting. These add to the book's appeal. One example concerns Soviet cosmonaut, Alexei Leonov and the flight of the Voshkod spacecraft in March 1963. Leonov, the first man to walk in space, exited his spacecraft through an airlock, but, after having enjoyed the exhilaration of floating in space, he could not climb back through the hatch until his spacesuit was deflated. The initial shock must have caused considerable panic.

     This is an attractive book. The layout, with many awe-inspiring photos, grabs the reader's attention. The photos combined with an informative, well-written text should make this a popular book with young readers.

Highly Recommended.

Thomas F. Chambers is a retired college teacher who lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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