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Publisher's Summary

Ignition! is the inside story of the Cold War era search for a rocket propellant that could be trusted to take man into space. A favorite of Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, listeners will want to tune into this "really good book on rocket[s]," available for the first time in audio. 

Ignition! is the story of the search for a rocket propellant which could be trusted to take man into space. This search was a hazardous enterprise carried out by rival labs who worked against the known laws of nature, with no guarantee of success or safety. 

Acclaimed scientist and sci-fi author John Drury Clark writes with irreverent and eyewitness immediacy about the development of the explosive fuels strong enough to negate the relentless restraints of gravity. The resulting volume is as much a memoir as a work of history, sharing a behind-the-scenes view of an enterprise that eventually took men to the moon, missiles to the planets, and satellites to outer space. A classic work in the history of science, listeners will want to get their hands on this influential classic, available for the first time in decades.

©2018 John Drury Clark (P)2018 Random House Audio

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What listeners say about Ignition!

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

HIlarious, dense read

For any aficionados of chemistry, or those who always carry a chemistry textbook, this book is an absolute must-have: a deep, genuinely funny look at a niche topic that'll get you every dollar worth. For everyone else... be prepared to get lost. I only have a Grade 11 chemistry background, as well as a fair bit of hobby science, but even I found myself looking back and forth between wikipedia pages to keep up with the chemical abbreviations and compound names. It's a lot to take in, and a lot of the time I found myself wondering "Wait, what does that mean again?"

That said: even with my being almost totally lost by Chapter 8, I enjoyed it. I find it hard to give a positive review to something I didn't *really* understand, so note that despite the 3-star rating, if you can keep up, this book is excellent—I'm strictly speaking in the context of how much I "got". Still, even if I didn't grasp most of it, some of the genuinely witty lines and stories contained here are actually worth your money (keep an ear out for the bits on Chlorine Trifluoride, and the story about the generals testing one particular fuel by dropping a rat in a huge tank of it). Recommended for any rocketry nerds and science fans, as well as anyone with a university-level understanding of chemistry.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Adrian
  • 2019-05-06

Science man lists names of chemicals for 9 hours

It was ok. There is some insight into rocket science and humor but I found it buried underneath continual lists of various chemicals with little context.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Alexander Douglass
  • 2019-02-01

Great chemistry book with original humor.

Great book for someone looking for a history of rocket propulsion. written for those who are actually interested in the topic. potentially too much chemistry for a casual listening to benefit.

6 people found this helpful

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  • joseph
  • 2018-08-30

fun science

An interesting and rare approach to practical science and a fun read to boot. enjoy

6 people found this helpful

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  • Andrew J.
  • 2018-09-29

you don't need to know chemistry.

hilarious anecdotes about explosions and government contracting. if you don't know any chemistry at the start you'll know some at the end.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Greg
  • 2018-09-15

A fascinating look into high end chemistry

One for the chemistry buff!!!

Makes me feel like I wasted my youth creating ridiculously expensive precious metal acids, when I could have been making rocket fuels, oh to bed few decades older.

A fascinating look at chemistry & chemical engineering back when not everything wasn't already known and people risked life & limb for their knowledge.

Bravo to the narrator, so many devilishly complicated chemical names delivered flawlessly, if he doesn't have a degree with a chemical background ....

OK, to be fair if you don't have a science or engineering degree this might be heavy going, but if you do it reminds you of the first time you blew things up.

3 people found this helpful

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  • C. Tipton
  • 2018-07-03

An audiobook only flawed by the unavoidable.

In audiobook format, it should many of the complaints - poor scanning and the like - that going the print book. it is read with spirit and clarity. Its only downfall is an artifact of the type of book and the audio format, that is, reading out chemical and mathematical formula.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
  • 2020-02-11

To detailed for a general space-loving audience

I struggled to finish this book because the author is on a mission to exhaustively described what seems like every mixture of rocket propellant ever devised, when a summary such as "and then they tried numerous other hydroxide mixtures, none of whom worked". Sometimes specific mixtures are accompanied by an interesting story, but most often they're not.

So I'm hesitant to give this book a 2 star review, but I think this'll be useful to other readers who are looking for a book closer to "Skunk Works", whereas this book mostly amounts to information budding space programs would be better off having in a giant Excel sheet of attempted propellant mixtures.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-01-29

so boring

the writing is terrible and the narration doesn't help. I feel bad for the narrator having to read the words on the page. cringe

1 person found this helpful

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  • Joe K
  • 2018-09-19

Fun and informative.

The author has a fun writing style. It's an interesting look back at the evolution of rocket propellant, even if you are not great at chemistry.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Warren
  • 2018-06-08

very interesting dive into rocketry history

this was a very interesting dive into rocketry history, covering as many fuels as possible.

1 person found this helpful