4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2013
Pilot Bob Winrush returnes home after the flight and finds his wife, Olivia, is engaged in tantric sex with her masseur. Bob grabs his gun and almost kills a man, shooting into the air.
After that incident, a family man Bob divorces his wife and moves into his apartment. Winrush (his name is often mistakenly pronounced as Windrush) is a pilot, freight dog. He once was a captain on passenger flights (when he met his wife, she was a flight attendant), and then switched to cargo flights. He flied with dangerous goods in all over the world, and its cargo, too, was hardly safe. On airplanes he was carrying napalm, AK-47s, ammunition, serving shady customers. He and his team, as a rule, received money in brown envelopes on arrival. He always carried a golden rule of freight flights - to ask no questions. But about two years before the described events, Bob gave up a job and went out of the deal, flying only halfway. He never cooperated with the Taliban, suspected something was wrong and refused. Walking out of a deal, too, is not tolerated in this business. Bob has received several threats after that, but that was it.
Now Bob is working as a private pilot for an Emirate sheikh, lives in Dubai, often meets with local woman named Leila. Then someone just startes digging in the two-year business, Sheikh is asked questions about Bob, and Sheikh fires the pilot, when they are steamed in a sauna in the tail of an airplane. When he gets home, Bob notices that someone was in his apartment. His captain's logs of flights are missing. Bob remembers the day of the flight, his team. Bob decides to return to the UK and books a plane ticket. The next day, Bob is contacted by Israeli journalist Sharansky, who is investigating the transport of weapons. Winrush first refuses but then agrees to a meeting, when Sharansky threatens to mention his name in a forthcoming article.
«Flight» is probably what can be called a perfect blend of thriller and "mainstream novel". The book is sufficiently entertaining, keeps suspense until the last page, makes turning the pages, but at the same time making us feel the atmosphere, enjoy the unique style, assess the language game.
In the novel, the profession of the protagonist is a pilot, freight dog, as he calls himself. Thorpe weaves amazingly the protagonist's profession in the style of the book. There are many curious puns, metaphors, comparisons, related to the air, aircraft cabin, jets, wings, etc. Thorpe felt his character, made him a truly authentic and alive. Bob thinks like a pilot, talks like a pilot. Besides, Thorpe has real gift to write fresh and original dialogue. It really is talk of living people, especially when Bob and Al (Bob's mechanic) are talking.
What else is saying about the skill of the author, is the balance of the book. The first part is in fact a continuous action, intrigue, danger and deaths. The second half is the exact opposite: waiting, boredom, anxiety, loneliness. But both parts of the book are identical in quality. He did not blunder. Where he writes a thriller, it's really a thriller, with its heavily twisted plot, espionage, and authentic moments. Not every mystery writer can tell a good tough story. The second part, devoid of the first brick-busting action, is interesting in its own way. This is quite a separate genre - a hero waiting for someone who wants him killed. He is essentially helpless. Those who want to kill him have the resources, they are professionals. If they want to do it, they will. Therefore, Bob can only wait and try to be alert but he needs to answer the question, who wants him dead.
Thorpe captures the hero's anxiety in his style, the changes in it. That who had flown now walks with a low hugging the ground. The hero is changing, is aware of his mistakes from the past, to somehow communicate with the flight he begins to investigate the birds. First, just for the cover, but later he's hooked.
«Flight» is story about responsibility, vocation, friendship, and delusions. It's a deep and live novel.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The past is catching up with Bob Winrush. His marriage is over as a result of his inconsiderate arrival home early when weather cancelled one of his jobs as a cargo pilot to find his wife in bed with another man but when an investigative journalist starts to dig into some of the content of Bob's previous cargo trips, his life is quickly placed in grave danger. His problems stemmed from having walked away from a particularly morally dubious trip to transport arms to the Taliban some years ago, although it turns out that his moral line in the sand is somewhat blurred. He has knowingly transported guns and military personnel in his time. He's sort of the aeronautical equivalent of white van man.
Winrush is a familiar character from anyone who has seen Hollywood action movies. He's a tough guy with a soft heart. In fact at one point one character laments that they are not in a movie, which is somewhat ironic as, short of wearing a white vest, he screams Bruce Willis character. In fact it would make a strong action movie - perhaps "Fly Hard"?
Adam Thorpe's style is a cut above many action books though. Certainly it is likely to appeal more to male readers I suspect, but it maintains the suspense and feel of someone being after Winrush without him knowing precisely who this might be. When he finds himself hiding out from persons unknown in the Scottish islands, the tension in particular is tangible. There are admittedly some elements of cliché. He seems to have an endless supply of women falling at his feet, from a good time girl in Dubai to the wife of a fisherman in Scotland. He appears as unselective about his female company as he has been about the content of his plane.
There is though, one element to this book that I did struggle with and it comes in two parts. Firstly, there is a fair amount of what you might call flying jargon. All this is explained in context but it does get rather repetitive and all the flight crews seem unable to speak in anything other than this jargon-heavy way. This gets a little wearing and the problem is exacerbated by the endless use of flight similes and metaphors. Some of these are very good, some darkly funny and clever, but to my mind, Thorpe rather over plays this tool. Fewer would have given the good ones so much more power. As it is, hardly a page goes by without out some aircraft related reference and I felt like screaming `yes, I know he's a pilot'. In fact, I can pin point the exact moment that my mind turned from `this is clever' to `this is annoying now' and it's a rather dubious reference to jump jet aircraft in the context of an intimate encounter that might well challenge for that `bad sex in fiction' award.
That aside though, it's a fast paced, action-packed story that is admirably different from the run of the mill action stories and the murky world of arms and drug smuggling are nicely handled.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2012
Adam Thorpe's new novel, the story of a freight dog who finds himself embroiled in illicit arms and drugs dealing, has the ingredients of a thriller: a tautly woven plot with an element of mystery; well managed suspense and a surprising dénoument. It goes well beyond the level of the average page turner, however, and provides the reader with a finely observed view of the modern world and an insightful exploration of friendship and betrayal. This is a novel of extremes: the murky underworld of arms dealing and drug trafficking is evokedwith chilling realism against a series of highly contrasted backdrops: glittering Dubai, windswept, rain-sodden Scotland and drearily middleclass England somewhere in between the two. The main character, Bob Winrush, is an oddly touching mixture of machism, sensitivity and ineptitude and the dialogue, far from being stilted as one reviewer suggested, strikes one as slick, economical and characteristic of Thorpe's sensitive and imaginative handling of the English language. Altogether a thoroughly enjoyable read.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Bob Winrush is a ‘Freight Dog’ – he’s a man in love with risk and will fly anywhere at any time, but then comes the moment when he walks away from a job which doesn’t feel right, something a freight dog should never do. He’s been on the cusp of illegality many times, but this time it sticks and he leaves the flight without a skipper to carry the goods onward.
He’s going through a messy divorce at the time (is there any other kind?) and his inner radar tells him there is something especially wrong about the job. He gets another job working for a Saudi Prince for a while, whose plane has a built-in Jacuzzi, but then comes home to England to sort out his affairs. That’s when he walks in on his wife with another man. Olivia, his wife, wants out of the marriage.
Then, one by one some of the other members of his crew disappear or die in suspicious circumstances and he flees to a Scottish Island and a half-wrecked house leased to him by his long-term friend and crew member, Al McAllister. McAllister meanwhile lives high on the hog in the Virgin Islands. Bob stays in touch with a student journalist who is unravelling some of the nastier weapons deals, including, he discovers, the one he walked away from, which involved a consignment of heroin.
His cover on the island is that he’s studying the black-headed gull and is a harmless ornithologist, but he manages to blow that cover almost immediately. Meanwhile, more members of his old crew seem to be having accidents. He meets a woman on the island, Judith, who is preparing to fight the wind-farm executives who want to build their pylons on the island, but as the pages diminish it looks increasingly unlikely that he will escape the fate of the rest of his crew.
Adam Thorpe is a writer who aims high. His recent books have been groundbreakers – the magnificent 'Hodd' a historical novel giving a distinctive and excoriatingly bleak version of the Robin Hood legend, or the brilliant war story 'Rules of Perspective'. Or, 'No Telling', a story set around the Paris rebellions in the 1960s, told from the perspective of a 14 year-old boy. 'Flight' testifies to his restlessly brilliant range of focus, and the breadth of his literary reach. He is probably the best writer I’ve ever come across.