/ Published June 21, 2016
“A nuclear explosion. A star going nova. It was an event so sudden, so unexpected, and so cataclysmic that Rod could never have imagined it unless he had experienced it himself” (p. 73). This passage is just one of many throughout Doug Beason’s novel The Cadet that seems simple but at the same time completely foreign to some readers, a memory to others, and complex to those who have never experienced life at the United States Air Force Academy. Overall, Beason presents an enticing tale about the beginning of this institution--one that is both historical and entertaining.
One of the best aspects of the novel is the fact that it includes elements that will connect with everyone in the military, not just cadets or graduates of the Air Force Academy or sister institutions. Parts of the book strike that eternal chord of military camaraderie, purpose, desire, and dedication that exist in everyone who has gone through some type of basic military training, regardless of the branch of service. The true gem, however, is the author’s glimpse into some of the history of and training that occurs at the academy--enlightening to people who have seen only the dorms and chapel from Colorado Springs or viewed the cadets through rose-tinted glasses. Although The Cadet is the first installment in what Beason hopes will be a Wild Blue U series of novels, it is, of course, important to note that the story takes place in a historical setting different from today’s environment at the academy. Yet, Beason lays the foundation for a heritage that, hopefully, will appear in later novels as the series develops.
The author effectively blends fiction and history in this work to both educate and entertain readers regarding the origins of the Air Force Academy. The characters have unique stories; some who make only cameo appearances are actual cadets of the class of 1959. Regardless, the main character and supporting characters are people and family members who are realistic and not overly complex--individuals with whom the reader can identify. They are present as both the Air Force and the academy are developing, and they experience an incredibly exciting time that includes the first two decades of the Cold War and the period following the Korean conflict. Beason uses historical elements to add color to the story and highlight some of the glory of both the Air Force Academy and the service itself.
Despite the sweeping, dramatic, and emotional plot, parts of the story are somewhat predictable. This minor drawback does not necessarily detract from the overall quality of the work, however. Indeed, regardless of this predictability, readers find themselves “power reading” to get to the suspected resolution because they feel connected to some of the characters and want to share in their victory or defeat.
I highly recommend The Cadet to everyone, not just individuals who have attended, are attending, or wish to attend the Air Force Academy. Twice I have passed this novel along to new readers who have enjoyed the story and characters. Beason effectively keeps the reader involved and educated about both this institution and aspects of the early US Air Force. One can only hope that the author continues his Wild Blue U series and expands on the historical fictions in other periods and venues involving the Air Force Academy.
Capt Richard P. Loesch III, USAF
Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, Texas
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."