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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the spirit of the V Bomber crews' Cold War perfectly
I enjoyed Empire of the Clouds enormously, and James Hamilton-Patterson is clearly a talented writer. I was expecting something fictional from him after his last documentary output, and was delighted to see the subject matter, so it was with anticipation that I downloaded the book and got stuck in.

My overall impression? Excellently researched, with some real...
Published 24 months ago by A. C. Riches

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad read!
This is a fairly good representation of the V-Force in the sixties. I was a Vulcan pilot at Waddington at the time and well remember the No 1 Group dinner, for instance. There are a few factual errors (eg there are no flaps on the Vulcan) but not many. It's a bit of a corny story and not written with great elegance or fluency. For those who remember the Cold War, the...
Published 23 months ago by Jothla


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the spirit of the V Bomber crews' Cold War perfectly, 7 May 2013
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I enjoyed Empire of the Clouds enormously, and James Hamilton-Patterson is clearly a talented writer. I was expecting something fictional from him after his last documentary output, and was delighted to see the subject matter, so it was with anticipation that I downloaded the book and got stuck in.

My overall impression? Excellently researched, with some real nuggets including the fascinating truth about the inevitable cancellation of the Nimrod MR4. Some really good writing, lyrical in parts, that gets across to the reader both the stultifying boredom of much of the V-Bomber crews' lives in the 1960s, and the difficult and sometimes dangerous nature of their profession. The story of the infamous crash at Heathrow in 1956 is also told, yet another example of the insider material to which he has access.

From a storytelling perspective it's 99% there, although there's just not quite enough of it for my taste - the narrative winds up with surprising speed, and another few thousand words strategically placed after the main incident (no spoilers here) and the switch to the present might have worked better for me. However, being intimately familiar with how fiction works, I was happy enough with the end result and will definitely read more by the author. Certainly good enough for five stars (and no, we don't share a publisher and I don't know James personally).
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad read!, 2 Jun. 2013
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This is a fairly good representation of the V-Force in the sixties. I was a Vulcan pilot at Waddington at the time and well remember the No 1 Group dinner, for instance. There are a few factual errors (eg there are no flaps on the Vulcan) but not many. It's a bit of a corny story and not written with great elegance or fluency. For those who remember the Cold War, the V-Force and QRA, the reading of this novel will be enhanced by a great feeling of nostalgia! I've enjoyed his other books more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel rooted in fact, 14 May 2013
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As an ex Vulcan Nav Radar from the early 70s I found the book full of vivid memories of things I was either aware of at the time or personally experienced. Although promoted as a novel this is is a book rooted in fact and as such deserves to be required reading for all those interested in the history of the RAF and its role as this country's nuclear deterrent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Under the Radar, 18 Sept. 2013
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B. Davies (Lincoln UK) - See all my reviews
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I read and enjoyed Empire of the Clouds, however, I found that while Under the Radar might be enjoyed by ex aircrews, it was a disappointment in certain areas. The author seems to have got all the technical aspects of the Vulcan aircraft from the flying point of view, but when it comes to the the general service of the Royal Air Force in the 60s, I found it lacking. Some examples, the Blue Steel was not a bomb but a stand off missile, there was no such term as a "munitions dump" on a bomber airfield during the 60s, it was a bomb dump for conventional weapons and an SSA (Supplementary Storage Area) for nuclear weapons. Also, whilst he has captured the excitement of a QRA alert from the aircrew point of view, he has totally neglected to mention the work of the ground crews to get and keep the aircraft serviceable. Equally, I'd be amazed if a crew chief after seeing off the aircraft, disappeared into the Warrant Officer & Sgt's Mess so readily! One last thing, the TASF in Malta was not run by "local" people but staffed equally by RAF technicians, SNCO's and officers.

I looked forward to this novel and while I acknowledge that it is work of fiction, the research into the state of the RAF at the time cannot be faulted. As someone who served during this period it brought back vivid memories, I just wish the author had been a little more accurate in some respects.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars under the radar review, 7 Jun. 2013
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I had enjoyed the book 'Empire of the Clouds" so I also bought this book. I think it works better as an account of flying than in the development of the characters and plot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Under the Radar - and below my expectations, 26 May 2014
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If you are ex RAF and want to wallow in a reminiscence-fest about the good old Cold War days, then this book is for you. It follows a crew wrestling with just about everything that can be wrestled - their role, their responsibilities, their place in the world, and in one case, his sexuality.

From the cover notes I was expecting a thriller, and although there is a plot in there somewhere, it takes second place to the reminiscing. Just when you expect it to flare up, it doesn't, and eventually it just fizzles out.

Some of the book is interesting, but probably only to people who are or were in the RAF. For the rest of us, it's not the pot boiling page turner I'd hoped for. I did learn a bit about Britain's nuclear strike capability in the 1960s though, so I did get something out of it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent read., 23 Jun. 2013
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I am a military aviation enthusiast, and have read many books on the subject. All in all I found this a decent read, however not one of my favourites. The book started really well, and initially I found it hard to put down, it however drifted away from the main subject in order to concentrate on the main character's love life, and far from subtle connotations about his sexuality, which I felt did nothing for the overall story. The book then returned to the subject of flying, and just as it was becoming interesting, and hard to put down again, with a number of threads of the story coming together nicely, it seemed to end all too abruptly. I felt that the author had set the scene well, for a great ending, to which I was looking forward, with anticipation, but then tried to finish it, in a rush, without fully doing the story justice. He then turned the clock forward, some 40 years, at which point I was anticipating a twist in the tail, however it never materialised. As I say a decent enough read, but one which left me feeling, a little, unfulfilled and frustrated.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 24 July 2013
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paul crowe "smoggy paul" (sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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I loved Empire in the Clouds so was interested to see what this was going to be like, combining my aviation interest, one of my favourite aeroplanes, and a period in history charged with tension. Its a mixed bag, interesting to get some insight into what it would have been like on a V Bomber base at that time, and the conventions of the time, plus some details about what it was like to crew the mighty Vulcan, good things and bad. But the attempt to merge fact and fiction just falls short, in my view. There isn't really a plot, as such, and that is a key issue - what IS the story? And the melding of fact and fiction is an issue - much of this reads like an expanded Wiki entry, and references to key events like Skyshield are broadly accurate. But then when you think you're getting some interesting and different views of historical events, clear fiction comes in [British Laser Guided bombs in the early 60's? ECM called 'Oilcan'?]. Its a wistful ending, and while I think I can see where the author is coming from, and even some insight into his own life, in the end it just fails to work. But if you can cope with the defects and take it as a different and gentle read about a specific part of our history, its worth a pick
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what you would expect, 30 May 2013
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I thought this would be just a cold war thriller but it held a lot of the wit you would expect from James if you have read the Cooking with Fernet Branca trilogy. I founf this book very enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a techno thriller but a study of regret, 6 Aug. 2013
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I bought this book as it seemed a techno thriller but by halfway it turns into a study of aircrew attitudes. There are descriptions of marriage breakup and repressed homosexuality. My impression is that tells more about the author than the actual aircrew. There is also a fashionable story about the duplicity of the Americans, which seems to also to apply today to Amazon with its tax evasion and zero hours contracts. On the whole the book is not a satisfying read as the storyline has lots of holes in it and the main characters did hold my interest or concern
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Under the Radar: A Novel
Under the Radar: A Novel by James Hamilton-Paterson (Paperback - 1 May 2014)
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