© 1995 Michael Crichton
What could happen on a plane to leave three people dead, fifty others seriously wounded, and the passenger cabin in ruins? Why did its pilot only break radio silence shortly before he was due to land in Los Angeles? Thus begins Airframe, a technical mystery from the pen of Michael Crichton, in which one woman has to scramble to find answers before either her company’s life-saving contract with China falls through or before a union upset ripens into war on the plant floor. This is the first book I’ve read by Crichton which is not science fiction, although it’s still very much the technical thriller, with a nerd-thrilling abundance of information on aviation and the aeronautics business. It’s not merely dumped on the reader, but introduced through characters who stand in for the reader and need to have all of the tech-speak around them translated. Airframe isn’t purely technical, as Crichton also develops a business conspiracy angle to make the reader wonder if the accident wasn’t one at all. There’s also a little bit of author-lecture, as Crichton delivers a rolling barrage at television ‘news’, condemned as vapid and sensationalistic. None of the characters are particularly compelling, but in a Crichton novel they rarely are. It is the pursuit of the mystery, simultaneously learning a great deal about an important aspect of global ‘civilization’, that drives this one. I enjoyed it enormously.