It all started with The Barber of Seville...I was taking my class to a local university to see a Lyric Opera special one-hour performance of the show, and when I got on the bus I realized that there was nowhere to sit! This meant leaving my students in the care of the other teachers and following the bus in my car. By the time I found parking and entered the theater, it was dark, the performance had started, and I couldn't find my class. I was not too pleased at the thought of sitting in the lobby for an hour waiting, until I remembered that I had passed a used book sale in the student commons. Suddenly, an hour of boredom turned into a stolen hour of reading. Huzzah!
Like many of Crichton's books, Airframe is full of interesting scientific and technical jargon presented in a way that the average reader can understand. I now know more about airplane construction and instrumentation that I certainly ever expected to. I don't know how he does it, but in Airframe Crichton takes a story with very little actual action and makes it exciting. Sure, there is the occasional union action or airplane ride to liven things up, but a lot of this book is basically people talking about aircraft or business deals, and I still couldn't put it down.
I also found myself in the rather strange position for a liberal American of feeling sorry for a large corporation. You know an author is good if they can make a large non-human institution sympathetic. Crichton's chosen protagonist, Casey Singleton, is very easy to like, and the interesting cast of characters that surround her make the company feel more like a rather dysfunctional extended family than a workplace. When the unscrupulous producer from a prime-time news show takes her limited knowledge of airplanes and tries to turn it into a story about the Norton "deathtrap", I actually felt angry on behalf of the makers of the airplane. Now, I'll be the first to say I think that some media outlets have gone way too far to create stories out of nothing that distort the truth, but I'm not usually feeling that way in defense of a major corporation. While I've become increasingly sure over the years I have read his books that Michael Crichton and I probably disagreed about every major political issue in the last few decades, somehow I am sucked into his world in spite of myself.
The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie
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