Airframe by Michael Crichton
rating: 4 of 5 stars
Critics spin Michael Crichton as a writer whose work lacks any real substance. He is seen as a pulp fiction writer whose works won't have any longevity. In my opinion, Crichton's works probably shouldn't be included in school curricula, but are more than just pure entertainment. Airframe contains some criticism and analysis of the U.S. legal system, free speech, and particularly, television media and television journalism. Perhaps Crichton only takes a skin-deep look into television journalism, but he does it in such a compelling, edge-of-your seat story that he will reach many more people than a non-fiction author analyzing how much U.S. households watch television (at the expense of listening to the radio, reading newspapers, and reading books) and get their "news" from sensationalist shows like the fictional "Newsline" show in Airframe.
Although I do not know anything about planes, it seems that Crichton did his research in learning about planes and airplane manufacturers. At the very least, he makes the story very believable.
The "twist" at the end of the book is quite unexpected. At least I did not see it coming. I'm not sure Crichton gives you enough information to predict the true cause of the incident on the Norton plane, but it's a very plausible cause. The book tells a compelling story and reads very quickly. I finished Airframe in two days. It's also a believable story that does provide some insight into modern culture, the U.S. legal system (particularly tort claims against manufacturers and the pressure on companies to consider (i) media coverage, (ii) public perception (which is greatly affected by media coverage), (iii) claims by mass-tort litigators, (iv) governmant agencies such as the FAA, and (v) the politics of globalization and new sources of power such as the European Union and the rise of the power of Asian countries such as Korea and China. Even though the copyright is from 1996, Crichton's story still holds some modern relevance and seems to be right-on in light of what is happening in 2009. When you read it, you'll realize Crichton had some insight into things to come.
- Read my review of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers here.
- Read my review of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink here.
- Read some of my thoughts on the implications of Blink which came to me while reading Moore's Watchmen here.
- Read some of my thoughts on Alan Moore's Watchmen here.
- Read my review of Harvey Pekar's The Quitter here.