This is the final part of the trilogy that started with "The Ragged Astronauts" and continued with "The Wooden Spaceships". The hero is Toller Maraquine II who is the grandson of the Toller Maraquine who was the hero of the first two books. Here "hero" is the right word as he displays most of the traits expected of a hero apart from the odd bouts of introspection about whether he can match up to his grandfather. The tale starts by setting up a romantic interest between Toller and a beautiful young countess who has all the character of a spoilt brat. The book is a bit of a slow starter and doesn't really get going until some aliens are introduced into the plot. The names of the aliens of reminiscent of those chosen by A E van Vogh. Still, I don't suppose you can expect an alien to be called Pete or John but is it a universal law that aliens have x, v, q, or z in their name? I suppose if you haven't read the other books in the trilogy the first few chapters would be of more interest but one balloon journey between worlds is pretty much the same as another for the reader. If you have read and enjoyed the other books in this trilogy then you should enjoy this. It isn't really necessary to have read the others to appreciate this story as each novel stands on its own with no loose ends. I didn't enjoy it as much as "The Wooden Spaceships" perhaps because it took a while to get going and there weren't many 'hooks'.
Shaw competes his trilogy which began with 'The Ragged Astronauts' and continued with 'The Wooden Spaceships'. The reader does really need to have read those books first. The premise is that twin planets, Land and Overland, are close enough that an envelope of atmosphere allows one to travel between them by hot-air balloon. Yes! Go read the first ones! They are great! This tale is set many years on and the grandson of Toller from those books is having a busy life. He falls for a higher-status young woman, he is contacted by aliens and he gets to go on an interplanetary voyage to Farland, a third planet in the system. As the people do not have much metal they are still making wooden spaceships and have developed a propulsion system based on maths - burn for long enough then stop, open the door and look out to see if you are there. Hmmm. The tale is not so convincing and while there are many links with the earlier books, it is definitely the weakest of the three in various ways. Read the first two, which stand alone, and then read this at your leisure just for the sake of completion.
A different work by Shaw and my favourite, is 'Other Days, Other Eyes' which tells of his marvellous invention slow glass.
The third part of the trilogy. Like the others a stand-alone book, but the reader will benefit from having read each of the others, several times. Shaw has many hidden references in each of the books that you only pick up on with the second or third or fourth reading. This last one is slightly less pacy than the previous two, The Ragged Astronauts and The Wooden Spaceships but is also a more mature work. You definitely need all three.
I read this book many years ago loved it and never forgot it. I searched it out on Amazon and ordered the 3 books in the Ragged Astronauts series. I was worried that when I started reading the series it wouldnt be as good as I remembered from so many years ago. When I started it was a relief to find that the books were just as good as I remembered if not better, I read all three books in a week and they now have pride of place on my bookshelf.