Airframe by Michael Crichton
Death in the air, who's to blame?
My last two reads from Crichton were Timeline and Prey and I liked them a lot so I was very excited to see what this one was about. From the cover alone I deduced that it had something to do with planes, and as much as I don't like them I have to use them from time to time ( I had a close call twice on the same day same plane, yeah..) but it didn't diminish the enjoyment of what this brought, there was nothing supernatural this time, it was pure brain and iron power with a little mystery on top. This reminded me of Raising Sun which Crichton also wrote, I saw the movie but I'm definitely going to read the book, and this has a similar feel with the figuring out what happened, and things happen right away, chapter one is like a comet and it's coming straight down.
Planes are basically metal birds but with a larger percentage for error, any little part can be faked, even though they are photographed and cataloged a little fake in between can mean a catastrophe, the pilot's range and skill and age also matter so when things go very badly in the story which luckily didn't have a crash but still had casualties and injuries galore there are questions in the end that need answers, Crichton wrote it so you can bet it's going to be deeper than meets the eye. Airframe is an intelligent thriller that will teach you a thing or two about a whole profession that many people don't know much about.
There is no gore, no blood no icky stuff, just some questions that need answers as reputation and money are at stake. Casey Singleton, v-p for quality assurance for Norton Aircraft is in charge of finding out what happened to the company's plane. Her boss is breathing down her neck to find the solution for a problem no one seems to know how to solve as they are about to make a huge deal with China that will save their company, bad publicity will mean that their time is going to be limited in the money making department and the company's future is in question. The plane that went down killing four and injuring fifty six was designed in the Norton Plant, started by aviation pioneer Charles Norton in the thirties during WWII as it made the legendary B-22 bomber, the P-27, the Skycat fighter and the C-12 Transport for the Air Force, so this is not some baby company but a giant with a history that is trying to stay afloat as their reputation is going through the ringer. Casey is a sympathetic character and her adventures made me grip the pages tightly, the closer she gets to the answer the stranger her life seems to get, danger is breathing down her back as she dissects the case coming to a very interesting conclusion and a very cool plane scene towards the end.
I loved how the plane factory was a small city with thirty thousand workers covering sixteen square miles, the principal assembly buildings greeted Casey warmly upon arrival to her new position at the plant, it was a nice way to introduce her by giving her a new job and refreshing the reader of her past while keeping the story flowing. It was fun figuring the mystery of the N-22 and how it was built while Casey risked her life, the answer was surprising but a lot of good searching went into it that beefed up the story. In the end I was happy but sad at the same time since Crichton is not around anymore, I can't even imagine what other stories he would have made if he had enough time. This was a great read and I adored it, full of intrigue, suspense and a mystery to solve, good stuff.
- Kasia S.
Michael Crichton novels
The Andromeda Strain (1969)
Dealing: Or the Berkeley to Boston Forty-brick Lost-bag Blues (1971) (writing as Michael Douglas)
The Terminal Man (1972)
The Great Train Robbery (1973)
Eaters of the Dead (1976)
aka The 13th Warrior
Rising Sun (1991)
Twister (1996) (with Anne-Marie Martin)
State of Fear (2004)
Pirate Latitudes (2009)