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KLIATTScience writer Macinnis was barely a teenager when he watched the first Sputnik crawl slowly across the stars on the night of October 4, 1957. Like many another boy, he instantly became infatuated with rockets, propellants, boosters and all the panoply of the dawning Space Age. As the new technology matured, so did he, and ultimately he was able to witness the tenuous success of the Hyshot experimental rocket test deep in the remote reaches of his native Australia. This launch, which took place on August 16, 2002, was the first hesitant step in developing a hypersonic ramjet engine, an event that even now is only barely beginning to reach the public consciousness. Developing a "scramjet" rocket engine capable of scooping its vital oxidizer from its own slipstream may well mark the way to a new generation of space launch vehicles. Inspired by these two epochal events, Macinnis set out to compile a popular history of rocketry that would be accessible to the casual reader. His take on the subject is mature and stimulating, not the usual glib treatment of this popular subject, but definitely not "rocket science" either. Too many other books begin with a wink at Wang Hu's famous (but, it turns out, apocryphal) rocket chair, and end with a histrionic salute to Project Apollo. This author takes a more thoughtful approach. He presents a thought-provoking study of just why the ancient Chinese might have wanted to isolate the ingredients of black gunpowder, for example, and speculates just how they might have accomplished this. From there, he goes into all of its ramifications. This is presented in an easy, enthusiastic and sometimes ironic style, stuffed full of interesting factoids,stories and anecdotes. If anyone wonders how brimstone got its name or how burning sulfur came to be associated with the Devil, this is the book. Readers will appreciate the creative eccentricities of William Congreve and Robert Goddard, and enjoy learning about the different rocket motors and how they work. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Allen & Unwin, dist. by IPG, 266p. illus. bibliog. index., Ages 15 to adult.