Three passengers are dead. Fifty-six are injured. The interior cabin virtually destroyed. But the pilot manages to land the plane. . . .
At a moment when the issue of safety and death in the skies is paramount in the public mind, a lethal midair disaster aboard a commercial twin-jet airliner bound from Hong Kong to Denver triggers a pressured and frantic investigation.
AIRFRAME is nonstop reading: the extraordinary mixture of super suspense and authentic information on a subject of compelling interest that has been a Crichton landmark since The Andromeda Strain.
Like his role model, H.G. Wells, Crichton likes to moralize in his novels. In this slight, enjoyable thriller, the moral is the superficiality of TV, especially of its simplistic news coverage. Readers willing to overlook the irony of this message being broadcast by the man who created TV's top-rated drama (E.R.) will marvel again at Crichton's uncanny commercial instincts. The event that launches the story, conceived long before TWA Flight 800's last takeoff, is an airline disaster. Why did a passenger plane "porpoise"-pitch and dive repeatedly-enroute from Hong Kong to Denver, killing four and injuring 56 That's what Casey Singleton, v-p for quality assurance for Norton Aircraft, has to find out fast. If Norton's design is to blame, its imminent deal with China may collapse, and the huge company along with it. With Casey as his unsubtle focus-she's one of the few Crichton heroines, an all-American gal who's more plot device than character-Crichton works readers through a brisk course in airline mechanics and safety. The accretion of technical detail, though fascinating, makes for initially slow reading that speeds up only fitfully when Casey is menaced by what seem to be union men angry over the Chinese deal. But as she uncovers numerous anomalies about the accident, and as high corporate intrigue and a ratings-hungry TV news team enter the picture, the plot complicates and suspense rises, peaking high above the earth in an exciting re-creation of the flight. It's possible that Crichton has invented a new subgenre here-the industrial thriller-despite elements (video-generated clues, for one) recycled from his earlier work. It's certain that, while this is no Jurassic Park, he's concocted another slick, bestselling, cinema-ready entertainment. 2,000,000 first printing; Literary Guild main selection; film rights sold to Disney for a reported $8-$10 million; simultaneous large-print edition and Random House audio and CD editions. (Dec.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-4 of the 4 most recent reviews
1 . Best work
Posted March 02, 2010 by ecu_dad , CTAviation enthusiasts will love it. This guy really knows his stuff and tells a great story.
2 . Terrible
Posted December 31, 2009 by Matt , MadisonA great hook in the beginning to get you reading, but then it drags along, with nothing relevant happening, and an unsatisfying end that seems like he scribbled it down in haste, without even trying to think of something original.
3 . Andromeda Strain + Disclosure
Posted December 28, 2009 by Daniel , Ames, IowaAirframe may not typically be counted among Crichton's more influential works, but it is still a solid novel that maintains his usual themes. The plot structure is reminiscent of Andromida Strain, which, unlike other novels from the second half of his career (such as Jurassic Park or Timeline), kicks off with the crisis and develops its themes as the book strings along without initally setting up characters, context, and concepts. In a one-up on Andromeda Strain, the characters and conflict are more like Disclosure, giving a singular, memorable, and authentic protagonist instead of AS's cardboard stand-in team.
Also of interest, though not particularly relevent, is that the death toll is remarkable low for a Crichton novel.
4 . easily his weakest work
Posted October 13, 2009 by Brian Tarbox , LittletonI was surprised just how bad this book was. I kept waiting and waiting to find something interesting...plot, characters, dialog, anything.
December 31, 1995
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Excerpt from Airframe by Michael Crichton
Daniel Greene was the duty officer at the FAA Flight Standards District Office on Imperial Highway, half a mile from LAX. The local FSDOs--or Fizdos, as they were called--supervised the flight operations of commercial carriers, checking everything from aircraft maintenance to pilot training. Greene had come in early to clear the paper off his desk; his secretary had quit the week before, and the office manager refused to replace her, citing orders from Washington to absorb attrition. So now Greene went to work, muttering. Congress was slashing the FAA budget, telling them to do more with less, pretending the problem was productivity and not workload. But passenger traffic was up four percent a year, and the commercial fleet wasn't getting younger. The combination made for a lot more work on the ground. Of course, the FSDOs weren't the only ones who were strapped. Even the NTSB was broke; the Safety Board only got a million dollars a year for aircraft accidents, and--
The red phone on his desk rang, the emergency line. He picked it up; it was a woman at traffic control.
"We've just been informed of an incident on an inbound foreign carrier," she said.
"Uh-huh." Greene reached for a notepad. "Incident" had a specific meaning to the FAA, referring to the lower category of flight problems that carriers were required to report. "Accidents" involved deaths or structural damage to the aircraft and were always serious, but with incidents, you never knew. "Go ahead."
"It's TransPacific Flight 545, incoming from Hong Kong to Denver. Pilot's requested emergency landing at LAX. Says they encountered turbulence during flight."
"Is the plane airworthy "
"They say it is," Levine said. "They've got injuries, and they've requested forty ambulances."