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3.8 out of 5 stars
The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the first McPhee book I ever read-- way back when it first came out. How well I remember it! How many years I have continued to look for news of the needed technology for large scale commercial use of lighter than air craft finally being mastered (and we still seem on the brink of making it work). A bookstore clerk had told me as I picked up the book, "That is one strange book. We do not know where to put it. Should it be in history, science, biography, reference, the technology section on air craft, business? No place seems quite right." I knew I would read more books by McPhee after this exquisite find, but I did not expect the next one to be on-- oranges! What a book The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed is; what a writer McPhee is. His books always leave you with the feeling that you now have a special insight into something out of the ordinary. And indeed you do.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am an unabashed fan of John McPhee, and believe him to be one of the todays's best non-fiction writers. _The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed_ does nothing but reinforce my impression.
I knew very little about 'lighter-than-air' history or technology before reading _Pumpkin Seed_, but McPhee assumes no prior knowledge. Indeed, one of the things I like best about McPhee is his ability to explain topics of a complex nature to a lay audience.
The story's 'characters' are exquisitely developed, and their interactions with each other are sometimes tragic, often hillarious. A number of them would make fascinating subjects for biographies in their own right.
If you have any interest in avaiation history, or just enjoy reading a well-crafted non-fiction work, I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2014
Format: Paperback
I remember when, years ago, long before I retired, a guy came into the library and wanted some really obscure information on Ferris Wheels. I got to talking with him and over the years we became friends. He had some kind of menial job, working at KFC or something, but he was absolutely obsessed with Ferris Wheels and knew just about everything you can imagine about their history and how they work. He was thrilled when we managed to dig up the arcane material he sought.

I’ve always secretly admired people like that. They have a singular, driven purpose and interest that I lack. I’m interested in many, many things, but rarely obsessed with one item alone at that depth, so I’ve had a bazillion hobbies.

I like John McPhee who so engagingly writes about these personalities. We have William Miller, a theology maven, who has sunk all his money and time into the development of a bizarre little craft, neither airship nor airplane; John Kukon, model builder extraodinaire who had won a ridiculous number of model plane speed records, one using a fuel of his own design that was so powerful it broke the world speed record and couldn’t be shut off, the plane flew for six miles; and how Aereon, the company they built, fell apart.

For whatever reason, the obsession with airships resurfaces every few years. Just read Popular Mechanics for a periodic revival of interest as a way to haul huge loads cheaply over undeveloped wilderness. For Drew and Miller, the interest was tinged with religious fervor, but they sacrificed a great deal for their dream.

Wonderful story, laced with history, (the story of Andrew Solomons parallels that in John Toland’s The Great Dirigibles.) McPhee always manages to take something apparently mundane and turn it into a fascinating essay about people and their relationship to the world around them.
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on February 10, 2015
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I will read anything by McPhee. He is amazing in his ability to make the details of whatever is in his world right now interesting and understandable
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on October 27, 2014
Format: Paperback
Every John McPhee book is required reading for the inquisitive mind.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Not Bad -
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
As a fan of John McPhee, I've read most of his works (starting with the Pine Barrens, and going from there). This book was one of his weaker ones. Just not that interesting.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
interesting story, sad that they ran out of money and were not able to pursue the project. the company still exists and makes drones for military I belive.
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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was disappointed to find the book has almost nothing to do with Solomon Andrews, he only rates five pages. Most of it is the mundane story of a group of well-meaning but inept lunatics trying to build and fly an "aerobody"--a "wingless" airplane shaped vaguely like one of Andrews' claimed balloon designs. (They sort of succeed, but the Aereon company goes broke a few weeks later and eventually the craft is put in permanent storage.)

Obviously the airplane (airplane? airplane!) had a wing, it just didn't look like one. Someday I will build the "crumpled-paper airplane" where I hang a motor underneath a giant piece of crumpled paper... perhaps I can call it a "crumpulator".

McPhee's writing is a little strange, and many words are used in slightly odd ways. It's not horrible, but not good. (I'm not anxious to read any of his other books, let's put it that way.)

The story itself is predictable, if you're familiar with the history of mad scientists with mediocre ideas. The design is kept in secret; the first N all-in attempts catastrophically fail on their first try; inadequate testing; absurd visionary dreams; insufficient funding; infighting; religious mania; suppression by "the man". It was interesting to read, but only in the same way watching a dot-com fail in slow motion is interesting.

I'm very interested in learning about Andrews and whether his designs ever actually existed (and worked), but this isn't the place to find out.
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1 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
The total lack of interest generated by this book is inexcusable for such a "celebrated" author. This virtual wading pool of long, boring language was worthless and not worth the money i paid for it.
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