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Review: Airframe by Michael Crichton

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.



Airframe is available now from amazon.co.uk in paperback, but not on Kindle.

This post was filed under: Book Reviews, .

Weekend read: Confessions of a car salesman

This is one of the longer articles I’ve featured in this series so far. Chandler Phillips went undercover, taking up jobs at a couple of car dealerships in the US. I found his findings completely fascinating – though it’s difficult to know how well they translate to the UK market.

This post was filed under: Weekend Reads.

Review: Never Push When it Says Pull by Guy Browning

Never Push When it Says Pull is something of an odd-man in my series of book reviews: it was published eight years ago, and is a collection of inconsequential but amusing newspaper columns. Yet I recently re-read it, and enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t resist including it some time.

Guy Browning’s series of five hundred How to… columns in the Saturday edition of the Guardian, which finished in 2009, remains one of my favourite columns of all time thanks its absurdist satirical view of everyday life. This book is the second collection of these columns – a follow-up of sorts to the previously released Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade.

The fact that I find each individual column laugh-out-loud funny means that the book is like a little bundle of hilarity. I read this pretty much in one sitting, but it’s also the perfect book for reading at random, in odd moments – after all, each column is only about 500 words, and each is an individual nugget of joy. Read it when you’re stressed at work and need some light relief, read it while relaxing on the beach, or read it on the toilet. All are decent options, although reading it at work might be inadvisable if this book makes you as prone to outbursts of laughter as it does me.

If you want a taster of what you’ll get in this book, all Browning’s columns are available on the Guardian website. You can read up on how to use a library (aka brothels of the mind), how to wiggle (after all, pleasure is wiggle shaped), or – if this review isn’t doing it for you – read up on how to sulk. I should confess that I’m writing this review in a coffee shop, and have attracted some strange looks thanks to the outbursts of laughter that re-reading those columns has produced.

I cannot give this book anything other than five stars. It might be the case that the slightly strange humour of this book passes you by, but for me, this is pure comedy gold, and I can only highly recommend it.



Never Push When it Says Pull is available now from amazon.co.uk in paperback, but unfortunately not on Kindle.

This post was filed under: Book Reviews, .




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