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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review: Airframe

In recent years, it's been hard for me to read fiction, as non-fiction always seems more compelling. If that describes you, then Airframe might be a great novel for you. Airframe's plot revolves around a fictional airline (TransPacific) and a fictional airplane manufacturer (Norton Aircraft). One of TransPacific's flights has a horrible incident in flight resulting in several deaths and multiple injuries, and our protagonist, Casey Singleton, is the VP of QA at Norton who's tasked with trying to figure out what went wrong.

Along the way, we get lots of exposition into how an aircraft gets made, sold, and maintained.  Critchton, like most science fiction writers, is skilled in the art of injecting exposition in ways that don't interrupt the narration and plot, so this exposition while frequent and extensive, felt very organic. Michael Critchton's usually well researched, but since this is fiction, he gets to inject his opinion about airline deregulation:
“Exactly,” Casey said. “Flight safety’s always been an honor system. The FAA’s set up to monitor the carriers, not to police them. So if deregulation’s going to change the rules, we ought to warn the public. Or triple FAA funding. One or the other.” (Kindle Loc 1705)
The protagonist spends a lot of time piercing together clues, much of which isn't very sexy, such as maintenance records. She gets threatened by union action, and does a couple of dumb things herself because she has no one she can trust because of corporate office politics. Less a character than a vehicle for the plot, nevertheless she's sympathetic and smart.

The ending ties everything together neatly, and I didn't feel cheated: the clues were provided in the book, and if you didn't figure it out before Singleton, it's not because the author cheated. All in all, the novel was a page turner, and well worth the time. Recommended.

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