Monday, February 16, 2009

The Ace


In the second year of World War I, a totally unprepared United States was forced to meet the threat of Germany's powerful air fleet, and in his novel, The Ace, author Jack D. Hunter tells the story of four Americans caught up in the military, industrial, and political chaos that surrounded America's effort to build an effective air service out of virtually nothing.

The story focuses on John King, a self-effacing 20-year-old living in the slums of Lackawanna, a steel factory adjunct of Buffalo, N.Y. John’s life changes forever when he rescues Bill Carpenter, an army pilot and rebellious free spirit, from the wreckage of a crashed “Jenny” plane. Jon and Bill instantly bond and develop a student/mentor relationship. John, encouraged by Bill, joins the army, where both he and Bill become entangled in the intrigues of greedy Congressman Thaddeus Slater, who enlists Bill to help him with his schemes to profit from the rise of the American military air fleet. Slater corners the nation's ash lumber supply and recruits Bill to convince the military to use only ash wood in the construction of its badly needed aircraft. Interwoven with this high-level and often corrupt in-fighting is John's emotional struggle as Mary Lou Whiting, heiress to one of the nation's greatest fortunes, falls in love with him.

Hunter delivers a passionate story with strong writing and intriguing subject matter. By incorporating factual historical accounts and documents of WWI in the fiction, he has foreshadowed the world we know today while offering an engaging and entertaining look at major themes, such as greed, the psychological effects of war, love and heartache, guilt, and blind ambition. As the plot unfolds, each character reveals humanities strengths and weaknesses. Through his relationship with John King, Bill Carpenter’s growth becomes one of finding his humanity. John King’s development involves an internal struggle with his own humanity as he faces the real human costs of war. Mary Lou’s desire to understand John’s pain reveals the emotional costs of war on loved ones. The emotional struggles of each character are a reminder of the painful human cost when war becomes a political and economic venture.

The technical details of WWI fighter planes and their performance in combat are well-researched and described in commanding detail. The most notable descriptions include plane types, specifications, and how they fared in the fighting that introduced the world to the concept of air power.

Hunter successfully shines a light on how America’s WWI aviation endeavors helped shape the military industrial complex of today. The Ace is highly recommended to historical fiction fans, war buffs, and aviation enthusiasts.

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