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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the book, then go fly a jet
In the early '80s, I was to graduate from school and got interested in flying for the US Navy. My mother sent a copy of T. Wolfe's book hoping to sway my dangerous intent and take a 'real' job. WRONG. About 9 months later I was soloing over Corpus Christi Bay and on my way to flying Navy jets.
Wolfe has written an epic that spans from the early days of flight...
Published on January 23, 2000 by B

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131 of 145 people found the following review helpful
An Amazon.com official commented on the review below
2.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, but Kindle edition riddled with errors
I've owned "The Right Stuff" for over thirty years in print form. I downloaded the Kindle version from Amazon to take with me on business trips.

To my disgust, the Kindle edition is abysmal - clearly, Amazon or whoever came up with it ran the print edition through a character-recognition software program and utterly failed to copy-edit it afterwards. The number...
Published on August 18, 2009 by Phoenix Rising


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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the book, then go fly a jet, January 23, 2000
By 
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Hardcover)
In the early '80s, I was to graduate from school and got interested in flying for the US Navy. My mother sent a copy of T. Wolfe's book hoping to sway my dangerous intent and take a 'real' job. WRONG. About 9 months later I was soloing over Corpus Christi Bay and on my way to flying Navy jets.
Wolfe has written an epic that spans from the early days of flight test through the beginning of the US manned space program. It will increase the heart rate of aviators, aviation buffs and armchair pilots/astornauts. I highly recommend that anyone remotely interested in aviation/space read this book. While it may not be accurate to the smallest detail, the overall scope and feel for a era gone by can never be or has ever been captured in the history books.
Regarding Gus Grissom, new facts are coming to light that will clear his reputation. Wolfe does hammer Gus in the book about what was known at the time Wolfe wrote "The Right Stuff". However, all the research and reading that I have done, Gus was probably the smartest engineer and best test pilot of the M-7 astronauts . He had a reputation of being a real nuts and bolts engineer and a hard nose pilot. He could handle any situation while flying experitmental aircraft or on the ground discussing craft/engine design with NASA's engineers. If any one has ever seen the old NASA films of the Apollo program, when Gus is doing the radio tests on that fateful day, he really gives the engineers hell from the capsule owing to poor communication on the radios "Jesus Christ, we can't talk between three building, how the hell are we going to talk on the moon." Classic Gus. Ironically, when Apollo One caught fire moments later, the hatch was redesigned not to repeat the same incident that happened to Gus in Liberty Bell 7 - and Gus, Chaffee and White paid the ultimate price.
Read this book. It is one of the best books I have ever read and was a real inspiration during my Navy days and beyond.
Bondo
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An Amazon.com official commented on the review belowSee comments
131 of 145 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, but Kindle edition riddled with errors, August 18, 2009
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This review is from: The Right Stuff (Kindle Edition)
I've owned "The Right Stuff" for over thirty years in print form. I downloaded the Kindle version from Amazon to take with me on business trips.

To my disgust, the Kindle edition is abysmal - clearly, Amazon or whoever came up with it ran the print edition through a character-recognition software program and utterly failed to copy-edit it afterwards. The number of errors is alarming, and it is only because I've read the print version so many times that I was able to recognize what some of the errors meant in the text.

It's a shame, because this book is a fine, fine book and one of my all-time favorites. Shame on Amazon or the publisher or both for charging $10.00 for a flawed, poorly-edited copy.
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Posted on Mar 28, 2013 10:42:03 AM PDT
The typos have been fixed by the publisher and the corrected content is now available.
 
 

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great book, KINDLE version FULL OF ERRORS, February 14, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Kindle Edition)
Great book, completely flubbed by Amazon. Is it so hard to run a spell check on a Kindle manuscript before publishing it? This book is filled with ridiculous OCR screwups: letters cl being turned into a nonsensical d, for instance. And there are a lot of them. Amazon needs to fix this book and send us all an updated version that doesn't hurt our eyes or our brains.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute classic, July 22, 2000
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
As good as "The Right Stuff" is as a movie, the book is even better. Thomas Wolfe's account of post war American test pilots and the first American astronauts is frank, amusing, moving and ultimately triumphant. Wolfe humanzies the cocky heroes that made America's space program successful. He punctures the myths that have grown up around such legendary men as Chuck Yeager, John Glenn and Alan Shepard and portrays them honestly, warts and all. The test pilot sequences and the onerous astronaut training are the best parts, but the whole book is utterly fascinating. "The Right Stuff" may very well be the best aviation story ever written.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Right Book, April 23, 2006
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This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
What Wolfe always does well is understand his characters motivations. Al Shephard - Smilin' Al of the Cape/Icy Commander - , Chuck Yeager, John Glenn "the flying monk" - are all sliced and diced by Wolfe's samurai sharp, if not unsympathetic, sword. A brilliant work on patriotism, heroism and American masculinity, with none of the dull twaddle that characterises Wolfe's later works (particularly Man in Full).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six star entertainment, June 18, 2003
By 
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
Tom Wolfe gives a brilliantly entertaining and inspirational book about one of the most colorful chapters in recent American history -- from the first supersonic piloted flight up to the early Sixties, when astronauts completed the beginning of America's space program. Wolfe writes about "the right stuff--" a blend of correct judgment, coolness, and the ability to get the job done, no matter what the danger. Wolfe rarely depends on technical stuff, so the book will appeal to those who know or care little about aviation or space, and there's little to deter the squeamish, ither. The author shows the period's bright side (the accomplishments in spite of the danger, the dopamine-flowing release after a job well-done, the intense exhilaration of it all) , and the dark side (the fears of the families, the tragic deaths from minor lapses in luck or judgment, the tedious egomania of many involved in the programs).
This book epitomizes the bright and dark side of Wolfe's school of writing, too. Above all, Wolfe can be as riveting and as entertaining as you'll find -- "truth can be funnier than fiction." I have heard how Wolfe caught the essence of what someone wanted to say even better than the one who said it, and he sure puts you into the thick of the action. The author gives a legitimate and interesting perspective. Nevertheless, this style plays heavily on your emotions, with all the problems that can involve, and the book is not terribly objective -- a purely entertaining incident can assume more importance than it should. Since Wolfe's storytelling style can blur the distinction between fact and conjecture, it "stretches the envelope" of truthtelling, so if another storyteller doesn't have basic integrity (and many authors and journalists regrettably do not), this style of writing can be misleading or deceptive. Character development and depth are questionable; those who have "the right stuff" in the face of danger are portrayed as almost superhuman, and those who don't are made into buffoons (no matter how significant their contributions to the mission). This "tyranny of the cool" can get a bit annoying after a while.
In short, I think Wolfe's book gives a grand idea of the spirit of the times, and of life's entertainment value, but it is rightly considered a novel rather than history. I easily gave it five stars because it is SUCH an inspirational and delightful read, but I would approach it with a bit of light-hearted skepticism.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Right Stuff; the Right Edition, August 24, 2006
By 
Craig L. Howe (Darien, CT United States) - See all my reviews
This book was my introduction to Tom Wolfe - and what an introduction it was.

The country was mired in a black hole. President Nixon had resigned the Office of the President in disgrace. There was the continuing debacle in Iran. The anti-hero was king.

Who would have guessed a book about old-fashioned heroism could capture the public's attention?

Yet that is exactly was Wolfe penned. Beginning with the early test pilots and then proceeding to NASA's Mercury program's assault on the final frontier - space. A tale of good, old-fashioned American heroism; a thought, which to many in 1979 that was foreign, or at best, long-forgotten.

The book was controversial. As a New Journalist, Wolfe inserted himself into the lives of his "characters" as each in turn becomes a major player in the space program. It was a true story that tintillated the reader's imagination. No novel could have done it better.

Beginning with an opening chapter on the terror of being a test pilot's wife, the story cuts back to the late 1940s, when Americans were first attempting to break the sound barrier. Anyone who has ever read it will never forget its Blue Uniform litany. Test pilots, we discover, are people who live fast lives with dangerous machines on the edge. I recall having to punch myself to be reminded that I was not reading a book about the stock brokerage business.

Although Wolfe's command of the English language is unparalleled, this edition is enhanced by the inclusion of images culled from Life and Look magazines, NASA and the Library of Congress. The photos chronicle the lives of the people and the social and political climate that created our country's nascent space program.

The Right Stuff is my favorite book. Tom Wolfe is my favorite author. This edition is a tribute to both. Yet more than that, it is a tribute to the people and the spirit that made this story possible.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insights into the Early History of Space Flight, June 14, 2006
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
For those familiar with the history of manned space flight, most of the information in this book is familiar. But there are also some "what if" alternatives mentioned. For instance, Shepard wanted a 3-day Mercury flight in 1963 following the flight of Cooper's Faith 7. This never came to pass. Considering how far the US was behind the USSR in man hours of space flight, this would have been a good idea.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The great American novel -- except that it's true, May 9, 2001
By 
Larry Bridges "thebachelor" (Arlington, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
For a very long time "The Right Stuff" was my favorite book (excluding the Bible, which is unique). Even after reading Dante's "Divine Comedy," I'm not sure Wolfe's book has been dislodged from its position.
Wolfe begins to work his literary magic on the first page. A young, beautiful woman is worried about her husband, a Navy test pilot, having heard that there has been a plane crash. Space buffs like me reading the book are fascinated to realize that the woman is Jane Conrad, wife of Pete Conrad (which, incidentally, tells us that the bad news that day won't be about her husband). If this scene appeared in a different book about the space program, even one as superb as Andrew Chaikin's "A Man on the Moon" or Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger's "Apollo 13," the account of events, while exciting and suspenseful, would remain on a somewhat mundane plane of everyday reality. Wolfe's glittering, idiosyncratic literary style lifts events into a world of super-reality. We experience Jane Conrad's concern and dread as if we were Jane Conrad. Perhaps more than any other book I have read, "The Right Stuff" has caused me to remember the events it relates as if I lived through them rather than reading about them.
One noteworthy feature of Wolfe's style in this book is his nearly Wagnerian use of verbal "leitmotiven," key phrases which pop up over and over in the book and come to convey far more than the simple content of the words. Anyone who has read the book will remember for a long time Wolfe's use of such phrases as "bad streak," "Flying and Drinking and Drinking and Driving," "the Integral," "our rockets always blow up," "the Presbyterian Pilot," "single combat warrior," "ziggurat," and, of course, "the right stuff."
The book also contains the funniest set-piece in any book I have ever read, the description of the celebration when the astronauts and their families first visit Houston, including the fan dance by the ancient Sally Rand. Interestingly, in the excellent film version of the book this scene was transformed from a hilarious comedy sequence into something elegiac, intercut with the sequence of Chuck Yeager bailing out of a plane (which happened on a different day in reality and in the book) to create drama and suspense. In this radically different form the two sequences are just as effective in the movie as they are in the book.
"The Right Stuff" has sometimes been criticized for being overly fictionalized, or at least speculative. These criticisms probably have a great deal of validity, but they do not alter the fact that "The Right Stuff" is the definitive evocation of that brief era around 1960 when almost anything, good or bad, seemed possible. It is an unforgettable literary achievement.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe's prose push the envelope, April 14, 2002
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
This non-fiction tells more than the story of America's race for space - but actually tells a deeper story: of America's push into the next frontier and how it discarded the heroes and heroism that led the way. Beginning with the early years of the jet age - when jets were prone to disintegrate at transonic speeds if they didn't just fail, Wolfe charts the conquest of the sonic barrier by Chuck Yeager. When the Russians jump the gun and pioneer the artificial satellite (and the nuclear-capable ICBM that lofted it into orbit) the US responds with its own programs - which fail miserably. The triumph of Gagarin's and Leonov's space flights spur the Americans to use unproven and flimsy hardware, and respond with apparently less success. (Unlike the first Soviet space flights which achieved orbit, the first American astronauts flew short suborbital missions; though superior technology allowed the west to loft satellites comparable to Sputnik but much smaller, conventional wisdom held the grapefruit-sized satellites as inferior). Though military test pilots had been flying (and dying) in virtual anonymity for years, those chosen to fly the American rockets become national heroes before the first launch. Wolfe parallels the civilian Mercury program that lofted the first Astronauts with the exotic but military X-15 program (which did not reach as high or as fast, but was at least flown by a pilot like an airplane) as if paralleling a more promising program with one that people were more interested in. The distinction is between the heroism that the Mercury astronauts stood for, and the heroism X-15 pilots (who snapped up no book deals) actually embodied.
"The Right Stuff" is a triumph. Though it doesn't tell the whole story of the space program, Wolfe sets up an ingenious theme. The pilots and astronauts of the day were heroes, like knights of the round table, and the cold war was there crusade. While this sense of the epic was an outgrowth of the end of WWII, the burgeoning missile and nuclear technologies meant it would soon become impossible to see the world in simplistic terms. Though technology improved, those who developed or relied on it matured as well, shedding their addiction to the epic - John Glenn (whom Wolfe paints as a sincere hero) clashes with NASA bigwigs and never flies again (until the late 1990's), while Chuck Yeager assumes command of test pilot school, only to confront Kennedy-era political correctness. The book ends on a bittersweet note - with Mercury giving way to Gemini, and the end of the X-15. Wolfe describes these events and others as hallmarks of the cold-war's end. No longer would American's fly in space solo like warriors of old, while the demise of the X-15 eliminated American warriors from spaceflight entirely. Paralleling this were the Cuban missile crisis and the DC-Kremlin hotline. There would still be a cold war but, divorced from its epic delusions, we would learn how to end it...eventually. So profound was this change in mentality that, JFK's assassination at the crosshairs of a pro-Castro militant did not raise red-scare hsyteria.
"The Right Stuff" also triumphs because of its unique perspective of the time which seems to parrot the hysteria of the day without actually condescending to it. Through the book we see the world marvel at the illusion of Russian ingenuity ("imagine, they kept a man alive up there a whole day!") while remaining fatalistic about American blunders ("our boys always screw up!" "Our rockets always explode!!") Wolfe inspired a new school of journalism and history, but none have come close to matching this feat.
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The Right Stuff
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (Paperback - October 30, 2001)
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