This novel was the first story of test pilot/astronaut Steve Austin. The experimental craft that Austin is test pioloting malfunctions. Austin, like any other dedicated test pilot, does not like to abandon his ship. He struggles up until it is too late to attempt to land the craft.
The craft is destroyed. Austin barely survives the crash. His body is shattered in the accident. He has lost both legs, one arm, and 1 eye. Additionally, there is extensive major structural damage to his entire body. He is a wreck of a man.
At the same time, a secret branch of the American government, the Office of Strategic Operations (OSO) has taken an interest in the work of Dr. Rudy Wells> Dr. Wells is an expert in the field of bionics.
Bionics are the replacement of human body parts with mechanical prosthetics that are more powerful than the original limbs. Wells also happens to be a close friend of Austin's, so when OSO chief Oscar Goldman asks(or rather, orders) Wells to rebuild Austin with bionic limbs, Wells agrees.
Steve Austin is outfitted with: two new legs capable of propelling him at great speed, a bionic left arm that while closely resembling a human arm, is in fact a deadly bludgeon and battering ram. His left eye is replaced with a false, removable eye that is used to house a miniature camera. Other physical alterations include the installation of a steel skull plate to replace bone smashed by the crash, a poison dart gun in one of the fingers of the bionics arm, and a radio transmitter built into a rib.
The first half of the book deals with the surgery and the emotional aftermath. Steve has to come to terms with himseff. In many ways he does not feel he is a man anymore. But, he feels more machine than man. He contemplates and subsequently attempts suicide.
He resents being saved. He resents being rebuilt. He resents not being human anymore. Then, he finds out that the OSO funded the operations and he is now beholden to them. This causes him to become a reluctant agent.
The second half of the book describes his training. He can be a rather efficient and cold blooded killer when he wants to be. He trains with a female agent in preparation for their mission. Towards the end of the book, they finally undertake their mission in the Middele East.
This book was the basis for the 1970's tv series "The Six Million Dollar Man". There are many notable differences between the series and the book. The most obvious change is in the tone. The book is far darker that the tv show and Austin is a much more willing killer in the book than on tv. If you like the show, read the book and compare the two.
This report prepared by Yosef Shapiro