Before I read this, I’d never read a book by Michael Crichton. As he’s one of the bestselling authors of recent decades, that might come as a surprise. I thought it was time to correct that omission. As someone with an interest in aviation (I’m a fan of trashy TV programmes like Air Crash Investigation, and also the excellent Flaps podcast), I thought Airframe was the perfect option to fill the gap.
Airframe is advertised as “a fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled thriller from the master of high-concept storytelling”. I have some objections to this description: I don’t think it’s fast-paced, adrenaline fuelled, a thriller, or high-concept storytelling. I found it interminably dull.
This may be advertised as a thriller, but there were only about three short chase passages during which I could – at even the most generous push of my imaginations – be described as even vaguely interested, let alone thrilled; and those passages played only the most minor of roles in the plot as a whole.
The story, such as it was, really described nothing more than a particularly stressful week in the life of a dull woman who works for an aircraft company, combining well-rehearsed plot devices about a woman in a male-dominated work environment with well-rehearsed plot devices describing the conflicted life of a journalist. And it is most certainly not worth sticking with 400 pages of this to reach the damp squib of an ending.
Many have criticised Airframe for containing far too much technical detail about the mechanistic of flight; actually, my pre-existing interest in the topic made those sections some of the more interesting bits. But it’s certainly true that pages of technical description does little to heighten the jeopardy of the plot, considering that this is marketed as a thriller.
All of which is not to say that the book is bad, per sé: It’s just exceptionally bland. Much like magnolia paint, it’s dull but inoffensive, nobody’s favourite, but disliked very few.
I am afraid I am one of the few. I like books which have some sort of impact. This has none. If you like your books bland, you’ll probably get on very well with Airframe, but probably not with me. I struggled to finish it, and cannot recommend it.