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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 1,985th post was filed under: Book Reviews, .

Summer Books: Airframe by Michael Crichton

Airframe by Michael Crichton

Airframe by Michael Crichton

After quite a journey together, we’ve arrived at week seven of the Summer Books series. I hope, dear reader, that you’ll think us close enough by now to share some guilty secrets.

If not, then who can blame you? After all, the largely monological way in which I’m bestowing my opinions upon you can hardly breed intimacy, but I’m afraid the boil of this review needs to be lanced at some point, and now seems as good a time as any.

You see, the thing is, I’ve never read a Michael Crichton. Jurassic Park, Prey, The Terminal Man, Next Sphere, these are all just names to me, or in the case of the first, a blockbuster movie. I’ve never read the original text of any of them, and nor I am sure I have the desire to do so.

However, with Michael Crichton described as one of the greatest and most thoroughly researched writers of our time, I thought I should step into the breach, and given my love for trashy TV programmes like Air Crash Investigation, I thought that Airframe would be the perfect vehicle for my exploration of these new lands.

And so I casually segue into another bombshell of a guilty secret: I hated it. I found it one of the single most dull books I have ever battled through.

Airframe is advertised as a thriller. Try as I might, there were only about three short passage 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.

Frankly, the this novel would be no less of a page turner if it were served encased in a jar of golden syrup.

All of which is not to say that the book is particularly bad, per sé: It’s just 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. When I read, I like to be interested, challenged, even moved – Airframe does none of that. Yet if you like your books bland, you’ll probably get on very well with Airframe: Just don’t expect me to agree.

» Airframe by Michael Crichton is available now in the sjhoward.co.uk shop


This review was originally posted here on sjhoward.co.uk in March 2005, and has been extensively re-versioned for the ‘Summer Books’ series of reviews published on sjhoward.co.uk and Gazette Live.

This 1,365th post was filed under: Summer Books, , , , .

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