... to say that Rose’s new book, Empires of the Sky, is about the Hindenburg is to diminish the genius of the narrative Rose has crafted here. Instead of writing about a single moment in time — May 6, 1937 — Rose has built a sweeping narrative, taking us all the way back to the 1800s, to the days of 'aeronauts' and 'balloonmania,' to the early dreams of flying and to the central question that loomed over aviation from the late 1890s all the way to the 1930s and the Hindenburg explosion ... The characters are fascinating — you’ll recognize their names ... The history here is fascinating, too ... at times, the prose wanders into clichés ... early on, the narrative feels a bit like one of Eckener’s 800-foot airships. It lumbers just a bit on takeoff, taking 200 pages just to get through World War I and introduce Trippe...Over all, however, the reader will be glad for staying with Rose. We need to know about Zeppelin’s early failures because, at its heart, this book isn’t about a rivalry. It is a love letter to the airship. And even though we know how the story ends, I read with great urgency all the way to the final page, captivated by what might have been and marveling at what humans can accomplish with the help of engineering, physics, facts ... That’s a lesson that’s only all too relevant today. But it’s all just subtext here. Rose could not have known the world in which this book would fly. And so, we should just appreciate Empires of the Sky for what it is: important history and a true narrative — a definitive tale of an incredible time when mere mortals learned to fly.
... delightful and informative ... a great story, and Mr. Rose tells it well ... To personify the airplane, Mr. Rose gives us Juan Trippe, a Yale graduate with wealthy friends and a love of flying, which he eventually parlayed into a world-girdling airline—Pan Am. The author does his best to tie them together, at the cost of diluting the more interesting and ultimately tragic story of how the Zeppelin once seemed an unstoppable force, both for destroying the enemy in time of war and for tying the world together in peace.
In this comprehensive history, Rose does justice to the engineering of airships and airplanes, and gives a deep sense of the creativity and vision of the men behind the revolutionary concept of human flight.