on 3 April 2003
It's 1941. Half of the British bombers attacking Germany are being shot out of the skies, tracked down by new technology called radar. With the Nazis invading Russia and a fierce British bombing campaign only days away, it comes down to the Danish Resistance -- and ultimately to an 18-year-old Dane named Harald Olufsen and a headstrong young Jewish ballet dancer -- to locate the source of this radar, record its operation, and alert England before it's too late. In opposition is of course Germany, but also a Danish police officer consumed with doing his duty and poisoned by the tragic maiming of his wife and the long-time grudge he holds against Harald's family.
Perhaps because it's remarkably easy to read, HORNET FLIGHT is so simplistic and predictable it feels in places more like a children's novel than an adult suspense thriller. There's seldom any doubt about what will happen next, and even the deaths along the way don't evoke much sorrow. Although the final getaway does keep the pages turning, the only question raised is how the obvious outcome will be achieved. The techniques used to create suspense read exactly like what they are -- plot props. I found it disconcerting to be always one step ahead of the author and I wanted to scream at the characters to get their heads out of the clouds and make use of their brains. By the time their lightbulbs flash on, the reader has been bearing the burden of knowledge for fifty pages.
Where HORNET FLIGHT wins its four stars, however, is in the incredibly real setting. Never does the narrative read like a textbook, never is information included simply for the sake of being information. The life of the Danish in their captured country is penned with such an apparently effortless accuracy that I kept forgetting Follett hadn't been there to observe it all.
Suspenseful? No. But well written, interesting, and informative -- HORNET FLIGHT is definitely all that.
on 21 September 2004
This is the first Ken Follett I read - I am now hooked.
It was on my boyfriend's "future reading" pile after he'd purchased it at the airport on our last holiday. I started flicking through it and thought "oh, it's not just a war book".
Follett's characters are so real that you get involved in not just the main plot but also the lives of the characters. Although not the main subject of the book there is a degree of romance which is enough to grip the ladies without putting off the men.
These strong characters are a feature of Follett's books and I am now hooked. I would particularly recommend "The Third Twin". Very different from this book but equally gripping.
on 9 January 2013
Set in June 1941 in occupied Denmark.
The book covers the discovery of a new German radar installation on an isolated Danish island by a patriotic Danish schoolboy..
This radar is responsible for causing disproportionate losses to RAF bombers on their raids en-route to Germany.
The hero's & heroine then try to get the details of this installation to the UK by renovating and prparing a light aircraft under the noses of the German military and flying it to England so the "boffins" can come up with a solution to reduce the losses. Phew!
i found the idea and plot was good. It moves at a fair pace, but as i got further into it i started to lose interest with some of the steroptypical characters, and the improbable events e.g a man with a handgun winning a shootout with an aircraft rushing at him.
I finished it Ok and then immediately dismissed it.
The mark of a good book for me is: does it leave an impression? Does it cause me to go off and read related material? To find out more about some aspect of the subject of the book?
This one did not, hence the 3 stars,
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My first introduction to this writer's work was a book that has become a classic in the genre, "The Eye Of The Needle". For several books, and even more years, Mr. Follett pursued very different books like, "The Pillars Of The Earth", which was one of his most successful books, and has even lead to a "Pillars Of The Earth Day" annually. Many people enjoy both the areas that the author has ventured in to, but if given only one choice, I prefer the type that I first read.
He returned to the present genre with, "Code To Zero", which is the weakest of the spy genre he has produced since returning to it. "Jackdaws", was closer to historically based fiction, and it was very, very good. His newest, "Hornet Flight", is also well worth your time, and is close to, "Jackdaws", you will have to decide which you prefer.
He notes at the outset that, "Some of what follows really happened." Much less historical detail than he prefaced the last book with, but still intriguing for those who have read the history that takes place when this book is set. What he continued from his previous book was to place female characters front and center, on both the sides, that you will hope will succeed, and on the side of the Nazis which require no elaboration.
This book is a bit predictable, but I am hesitant to be too critical for I don't know how much of the tale is based upon fact. If some events are predictable but true, they are breathtaking, if only a figment of the author's imagination, they are expected and not up to the level Mr. Follett writes at when at his best.
Prime Minister Churchill appears and is portrayed accurately. There is also a character that was a close confidant and scientific advisor to Mr. Churchill during the war that may be the basis for one character in the book. I don't want to give what is a personal guess away, for it could spoil the book for some. If others agree with the observation, I look forward to reading the comments they offer.
Mr. Follett is very good at what he does and he rarely makes a misstep with a book. "Hornet Flight", is absolutely one of his stronger works, even if it is not his very best. Mr. Follett when good or very good, is still better than most others who attempt the genre.
on 5 December 2009
This is the second book that I have read by Ken Follett, the first being Jackdaws. The story was readable, but the format in the two books were very similar. Both had nasty guys, who were trying to climb the slippery pole. Both guys got their come-uppance in the form of grisly deaths. The whole idea was the same, but you did get a strong feeling for France in the Jackdaws, and Denmark in the Hornets Flight.
The technical description was good, and I found it a book that I wanted to keep reading to the end, though the conclusion was very predictable, everyone seemed to live happilly ever after, and everyone got their man or women.
Good story for relaxing and not too demanding reading, and in both cases not too many characters.
on 1 November 2011
I like Ken Follett's books having read several in paperback and on Kindle. In many ways this is a good book. Set in 1941 it relates the story of how brave Danish youngsters obtained vital information about the WWII German radar installations in Denmark. The book is well researched with information covering a wide range of topics about Denmark under the Nazis, from schools, the Danish Police, The Danish Army and Airforce, with even the vagaries of wartime train and ferry travel included.
It has been said about war that it is 95% boredom and 5% sheer terror. Much the same may be said about the pace of this book. It is a slow start with long descriptions of life in wartime Denmark following the invasion by Germany in April 1940. The plot evolves slowly but surely and the reader is well advised to "stick with it" as the action gathers momentum rapidly from about halfway through the 500 or so pages of the book.
In conclusion, I would say that this book does not compare well with Follett's masterpieces but is well worth a read if only to compare wartime life in Denmark with that in Occupied France.
Ken Follett is a great storyteller; Hornet Flight is a cracking yarn, based on factual events. It's a spy thriller, set in the second world war. It's a story I was unaware of, but have researched further with interest since finishing this book. It's an amazing account of how two Danish brothers and others helped the British, with scant regard for their own safety.
British bombing flights were being decimated by enemy action. The Germans knew a great deal about British flight paths and were able to intercept and attack to great effect. Churchill knew that they were using a radar detection system which was far more advanced than anything Britain had at the time. In order to continue effective bombing missions, Allied Forces needed to understand the secret of the Freya Radar system used by the Germans. Hornet Flight brings this story vividly to life.
There's obviously poetic licence, particularly with some of the love interest angle. But it's a tale told with pace and vigour. My heart was pounding during some of the chase scenes and the final Hornet flight of the title had me almost literally white knuckled! The characters are well drawn and I was genuinely upset as some tragic events unfolded. The skill in the writing is that a number of moral ambiguities are highlighted in the telling. For example, by helping the Allies succeed in bombing flights over German cities, the Jewish cousin of a central character will possibly suffer. The Danes capitulated quickly following invasion; where lay their true allegiance? And introspective religious fervour versus familial division is also explored.
All in all, there's a lot of substance and a number of layers to the book and I enjoyed it. I bought the Audible version and was listening well into the night.
on 3 January 2014
In late 1941, RAF bombers are being shot down in inexplicably large numbers over Germany. In occupied Denmark, a teenager stumbles across a top-secret German radar station which is being used to track the bombers. Resentful of the German occupation, he resolves to do his bit for the Allies by reporting this information to British intelligence. Unfortunately, collaborators in the Danish police are helping the Germans to close down a British-inspired resistance group, so his only option is to escape to England to deliver his intelligence in person, and the only means available to him is a dilapidated old De Havilland Hornet Moth biplane.
According to Ken Follett's website, this novel is based on a true story about enterprising Danes using a Hornet Moth (like a Tiger Moth, but has an enclosed cockpit) to escape to England. I rather enjoyed it even though bits of it were fairly obvious (the protagonist's love interest, for example). That said, there are some wonderfully detailed touches here, such as the motorbike converted to run on steam and lots of technical information - always a sign that the author has done his homework properly.
Unlike a lot of Second World War thrillers, the Germans are mainly honourable (a literary tradition that began in 1975 with the Jack Higgins novel The Eagle has Landed), and the most enthusiastic Nazi would appear to be a Danish police detective who has become a collaborator. Also of interest is a colleague (and love interest) of his, who has to balance her work (detective) and domestic life (widowed, small child) while also dealing with being a police officer in an occupied country. I felt that her story could have been expanded further, and may be worth a novel in itself.
on 2 November 2011
I haven't read many Follett books, but this one I had to read if only because I'm Danish.
I am not quite old enough to remember WWII but have grown up saturated with "the older generation's" memories of The Occupation, The Five Evil Years.. and other terms for the experience of Danes during WWII.
The actual historically correct details you can find in wikipedia if you google Hornet Flight!
Follett has done his research. Even for me his descriptions of the different people, the different environments from Copenhagen to Fanoe, from Big City Danes to Inner Mission (very strict Lutheran sect) people in Western Jutland are very convincing. I've met them all, I can recognize them from his descriptions. I can also recognize the feeling of a small 'provincial' society, for Denmark was very much that in those days, the more so for being occupied and therefore largely isolated from everyone else except by illicit listening to the BBC special services programs.
Follett has taken care to situate the story in geographically and historically correct places, like the boarding school - one of only two in Denmark that can be compared to English Public Schools - the Police Headquarters in Copenhagen, the Royal Ballet, the island of Fanoe off the coast of West Jutland, etc. To Danes they are easily recognizable and help to make the story believable.
The story is not a fast-paced thriller but it is true to its origins both geographically and historically. I don't think it would have made sense to try to increase the pace by complicating the story. This was the 1940s - long before text messages, e-mail and other forms of fast communication let alone fast transport (very few private citizens had access to petrol so transport was mostly by bicycle or public transport).
To my mind the author must reflect the pace of the time and the conditions of the story's development in the pace of the plot.
This is not a history textbook but a novel. And it is a novel which brings Denmark during WWII very convincingly to life.
on 10 October 2011
I was very much looking forward to reading this book. It's the first book that I have read by the author, and I was very interested to see whether I would want to read any more of his work. I had a good knowledge of the book as I had previously listened to it on an audio tape recording, and when I saw it in a book shop I was keen to get a copy as I had thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. I was also interested in the book as it is set in Denmark, and like many UK readers, prior to the fairly recent popularity of Scandinavian crime books I don't tend to find many books set in that part of the world. So I did come to read the book with a pleasant anticipation of a fun and enjoyable read. And I was not disappointed. The audio book was a slightly abridged version of the paperback, but I think it was a good version, the book itself had a little more content and some areas of the plot were expounded in greater detail. Although it is a thick paperback at 580 pages long the writing style was easy and I found myself reading it very quickly, and always looking forward to when I could pick it up again. The book has done everything that a book should do, it has made me interested to read more books by this author, and I imagine that I will probably re-read this book. I would agree with other reviewers who comment favourably on the wartime setting that is very well re-created in this book. Unlike some of the readers I did feel some of the suspense and tension especially when I was listening to the audio version the first time around. A very enjoyable read and a great page turner. It gives an interesting insight into what conditions may have been like in Denmark during world war 2. I had for example never considered that members of the police force might side with the occupying forces.