Mein Gustav
by Ira Campbell

"It was like a dark cloud about to swallow me on the way down, the deep yellow nose within a hundred feet or so, and diving over the port as I threw my stick to starboard to avoid a collision."

Extensive details of airplanes, engines, flight maneuvers, and aerial dogfights fill this prodigious historical fiction of World War I. Told from both the British and German perspectives, readers are able to empathize with fierce enemies who eventually come to realize that their foes are simply human beings caught in catastrophic circumstances.

Writing in the first-person, an English soldier recounts the terrible wounds he suffered in trench warfare, the kindness of the nurse who brought him back to health, his journey from the ground to the air via the Royal Flying Corps, and his progression from flight observer to pilot to instructor and more. Simultaneously, via the same writing technique, the author follows a German so frightened by his initial military experiences that he keeps his gas mask with him even as he progresses through his own flight training. While extensive coverage is given to the nuts and bolts of various aircraft, the assortment of skills required for specific flight dynamics, and the complicated machinations of airborne combat, this is just as much a tale of men and women as it is of mechanisms.

Campbell interweaves the personal stories of men and the women they love in and out of the tumultuous times they inhabit. He exhibits a fondness for humor that is never far from the ever-present danger. His prose is easy to read, his dialogue echoes real conversation, and his plot exposition feels natural, never forced. For readers who enjoy being engulfed in worlds very unlike their own—readers who appreciate history, romance, and suspense—Campbell’s big novel may be just what they’re looking for.

Return to USR Home