Airframe

( 174 )

Overview

From the author of Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Sphere comes this extraordinary thriller about airline safety, business intrigue, and a deadly cover-up.
 
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
“The pacing is fast, the suspense ...

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Airframe

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Overview

From the author of Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Sphere comes this extraordinary thriller about airline safety, business intrigue, and a deadly cover-up.
 
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
“The pacing is fast, the suspense nonstop.”—People
 
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 flying from Hong Kong to Denver triggers a pressured and frantic investigation in which the greatest casualty may be the truth.
 
“A one-sitting read that will cause a lifetime of white-knuckled nightmares.”—The Philaelphia Inquirer
 
“The ultimate thriller . . . [Crichton’s] stories are always page-turners of the highest order. . . . [Airframe] moves like a firehouse dog chasing a red truck.”—The Denver Post
 
“Dramatically vivid.”—The New York Times

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Internal Memo

Time Warner Disney Dreamworks Fox-Murdoch Turner Ventures, Inc.

From: Ken Sprenkel, CEO

To: Michael Wilson, Senior VP, Production

I've just looked at the first galleys of Airframe, and I'm pleased to announce that Mike has gone and done it again. Airframe is going to be the biggest-grossing film of 1998. (The sequel to Mikey's Jurassic Park comes out in '97, right? Har har.) Let's just keep our fingers crossed that the FAA doesn't do anything stupid to step up air safety any time soon - a big disaster, timed to the release of the film, would be boffo.

The story's great - a charter airline from Hong Kong (political statement? may need to rework) gets into some fatal turbulence (fatal turbulence! how does Crich come up with them?), and lands with a couple of passengers who've permanently cashed in their frequent flier miles. Of course this happens the same week the plane's American manufacturer is about to close a big sale with China - a sale that might or might not cost those hard-working union Yanks their jobs. What's right? What's wrong? Who's at fault for the disaster? (Don't worry - it isn't too morally ambiguous for the average Joe).

I see either Sharon or Michelle in the lead as Casey, the gutsy but feminine quality control investigator. Michael Douglas was born to play the nefarious Norton Aircraft CEO John Marder. We're talking Oscar here. Plus there's meaty roles for the ambitious, backstabbing underling (get McConaughey's agent on the phone TODAY), and the scandal digging TV producer (I think either Gwyneth or Liv here, your thoughts?).

Obviously, we'll have to gut those pages and pages of aviation terminology - BOR-ing! Mike can get so heavy-handed with that stuff. Which reminds me, let's try to negotiate him down on the fee for writing the screenplay. I mean, frankly, he's already done it. Read the book, you'll see. If he won't play ball, we'll threaten to get Eszterhas to tweak it. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.
Library Journal
On the heels of several timely successes (e.g., The Lost World, Audio Reviews, LJ 11/15/95) comes this latest novel from Crichton, which, contrary to what you may have been led to believe by the hype, should reassure even the most jaded U.S. air traveler. The tale begins with the problematic flight of a foreign carrier, during which the plane dives and climbs rapidly for unknown reasons. Although the plane lands safely, several people are killed. Enter Casey Singleton and a team of investigators from Norton Aircraft, manufacturer of the airframe, who must search for the cause. Crichton's talent lies in making arcane sciences fascinating to even the most spirited Luddite, and fans won't be disappointed by his descriptions of the technology employed in the making of passenger planes and, in particular, the precision with which the aircraft's wings are designed. Blair Brown does a nice job with the narration. Most popular collections should have a copy or two.-Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"
School Library Journal
YA-Crichton's newest novel is billed as a "technical thriller" but the technology seems to outweigh the thrills. Casey Singleton is called upon to lead the investigation of the near air disaster of Flight 545. The pilot landed the plane safely but three passengers were killed. All of the evidence is conflictingthe pilot attributed the incident to turbulence but there was none. The flight attendant says the pilot fought the autocontrol but he didn't. What really happened to this flight? As Casey tries to piece the puzzle together, a national TV network plans an expos of the accident. The program is not focused on the truth but rather on discrediting the airline. Casey's race against time is further complicated when attempts are made on her life. Airframe is full of technical jargon and explanations of how airplanes fly and why they sometimes don't. Crichton incorporates enough suspense to keep readers going but a degree in engineering would be helpful in understanding this novel.Katherine Fitch, Lake Braddock Middle School, Burke, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345526779
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/22/2011
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 244,759
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 4.16 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Crichton’s novels include The Andromeda Strain, The Great Train Robbery, Congo, Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, Disclosure, and The Lost World. He was as well the creator of the television series ER. Crichton died in 2008.

Biography

Michael Crichton's oeuvre is so vivid and varied that it hard to believe everything sprang from the mind of a single writer. There's the dino-movie franchise and merchandising behemoth Jurassic Park; the long-running, top-rated TV series ER, which Crichton created; and sci-fi tales so cinematic a few were filmed more than once. He's even had a dinosaur named after him.

Ironically, for someone who is credited with selling over 150 million books, Crichton initially avoided writing because he didn't think he would make a living at it. So he turned to medical school instead, graduating with an M.D. from Harvard in 1969. The budding doctor had already written one award-winning novel pseudonymically (1968's A Case of Need) to help pay the bills through school; but when The Andromeda Strain came out in the same year of his med school graduation, Crichton's new career path became obvious.

The Andromeda Strain brilliantly and convincingly sets out an American scientific crisis in the form of a deadly epidemic. Its tone -- both critical of and sympathetic toward the scientific community -- set a precedent for Crichton works to come. A 1970 nonfiction work, Five Patients offers the same tone in a very different form, that being an inside look at a hospital.

Crichton's works were inspired by a remarkably curious mind. His plots often explored scientific issues -- but not always. Some of his most compelling thrillers were set against the backdrop of global trade relations (Rising Sun), corporate treachery (Disclosure) and good old-fashioned Victorian-era theft (The Great Train Robbery). The author never shied away from challenging topics, but it's obvious from his phenomenal sales that he never waxed pedantic. Writing about Prey, Crichton's cautionary tale of nanotech gone awry, The New York Times Book Review put it this way: "You're entertained on one level and you learn something on another."

On the page, Crichton's storytelling was eerily nonfictional in style. His journalistic, almost professorial, and usually third-person narration lent an air of credibility to his often disturbing tales -- in The Andromeda Strain, he went so far as to provide a fake bibliography. Along the way, he revelled in flouting basic, often subconscious assumptions: Dinosaurs are long-gone; women are workplace victims, not predators; computers are, by and large, predictable machines.

The dazzling diversity of Crichton's interests and talents became ever more evident as the years progressed. In addition to penning bestselling novels, he wrote screenplays and a travel memoir, directed several movies, created Academy Award-winning movie production software, and testified before Congress about the science of global warming -- this last as a result of his controversial 2004 eco-thriller State of Fear, a novel that reflected Crichton's own skepticism about the true nature of climate change. His views on the subject were severely criticized by leading environmentalists.

On November 4, 2008, Michael Crichton died, following a long battle against cancer. Beloved by millions of readers, his techno-thrillers and science-inflected cautionary tales remain perennial bestsellers and have spawned a literary genre all its own.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our 2005 interview with Crichton:

"I'm very interested in 20th-century American art."

"I have always been interested in movies and television as well as books. I see all these as media for storytelling, and I don't discriminate among them. At some periods of my life I preferred to work on movies, and at others I preferred books."

"In the early 1990s, interviewers began calling me ‘the father of the techno-thriller.' Nobody ever had before. Finally I began asking the interviewers, ‘Why do you call me that?' They said, ‘Because Tom Clancy says you are the father of the techno-thriller.' So I called Tom up and said, ‘Listen, thank you, but I'm not the father of the techno-thriller.' He said, ‘Yes you are.' I said, ‘No, I'm not, before me there were thrillers like Failsafe and Seven Days in May and The Manchurian Candidate that were techno-thrillers.' He said, ‘No, those are all political. You're the father of the techno-thriller.' And there it ended."

"My favorite recreation is to hike in the wilderness. I am fond of Hawaii."

"I used to scuba dive a lot, but haven't lately. For a time I liked to photograph sharks but like anything else, the thrill wears off. Earlier in my life I took serious risks, but I stopped when I became a parent."

"I taught myself to cook by following Indian and Szechuan recipes. They each have about 20 ingredients. I used to grind my own spices, I was really into it. Now I don't have much time to cook anymore. When I do, I cook Italian food."

"I read almost exclusively nonfiction. Most times I am researching some topic, which may or may not lead to a book. So my reading is pretty focused, although the focus can shift quickly."

"I have always been interested in whatever is missing or excluded from conventional thought. As a result I am drawn to writers who are out of fashion, bypassed, irritating, difficult, or excessive. I also like the disreputable works of famous writers. Thus I end up reading and liking Paul Feyerabend (Against Method), G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, What's Wrong with the World), John Stuart Mill, Hemingway (Garden of Eden), Nietzsche, Machiavelli, Alain Finkielkraut (Defeat of the Mind), Anton Ehrenzweig (Hidden Order of Art), Arthur Koestler (Midwife Toad, Beyond Reductionism), Ian McHarg (Design with Nature), Marguerite Duras, Jung, late James M. Cain (Serenade), Paul Campos.

"Because I get up so early to work, I tend to go to bed early, around 10 or 11. So I don't go out much. I suppose I am borderline reclusive. I don't care."

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Michael Crichton (full name), Jeffery Hudson, John Lange
    2. Hometown:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 23, 1942
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Death:
      November 4, 2008
    2. Place of Death:
      Los Angeles, California

Read an Excerpt

Airframe Chapter 3

LAX
5:57 a.m.

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."

"Forty?"

"They've also got two stiffs."

"Great." Greene got up from his desk. "When's it due in?"

"Eighteen minutes."

"Eighteen minutes—Jeez, why am I getting this so late?"

"Hey, the captain just told us, we're telling you. I've notified EMS and alerted the fire crews."

"Fire crews? I thought you said the plane's okay."

"Who knows?" the woman said. "The pilot is not making much sense. Sounds like he might be in shock. We hand off to the tower in seven minutes."

"Okay," Greene said. "I'm on my way."

He grabbed his badge and his cell phone and went out the door. As he passed Karen, the receptionist, he said, "Have we got anybody at the international terminal?"

"Kevin's there."

"Beep him," Greene said. "Tell him to get on TPA 545, inbound Hong Kong, landing in fifteen. Tell him to stay at the gate—and don't let the flight crew leave."

"Got it," she said, reaching for the phone.

Greene roared down Sepulveda Boulevard toward the airport. Just before the highway ran beneath the runway, he looked up and saw the big TransPacific Airlines widebody, identifiable by its bright yellow tail insignia, taxiing toward the gate. TransPacific was a Hong Kong-based charter carrier. Most of the problems the FAA had with foreign airlines occurred with charters. Many were low-budget operators that didn't match the rigorous safety standards of the scheduled carriers. But TransPacific had an excellent reputation.

At least the bird was on the ground, Greene thought. And he couldn't see any structural damage to the widebody. The plane was an N-22, built by Norton Aircraft in Burbank. The plane had been in revenue service five years, with an enviable dispatch and safety record.

Greene stepped on the gas and rushed into the tunnel, passing beneath the giant aircraft.

He sprinted through the international building. Through the windows, he saw the TransPacific jet pulled up to the gate, and the ambulances lined up on the concrete below. The first of them was already driving out, its siren whining.

Greene came to the gate, flashed his badge, and ran down the ramp. Passengers were disembarking, pale and frightened. Many limped, their clothes torn and bloody. On each side of the ramp, paramedics clustered around the injured.

As he neared the plane, the nauseating odor of vomit grew stronger. A frightened TransPac stewardess pushed him back at the door, chattering at him rapidly in Chinese. He showed her his badge and said, "FAA! Official business! FAA!" The stewardess stepped back, and Greene slid past a mother clutching an infant and stepped into the plane.

He looked at the interior, and stopped. "Oh my God," he said softly. "What happened to this plane?"

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 174 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(65)

4 Star

(64)

3 Star

(29)

2 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 175 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Airframe; 'Riveting' Tale, another hit for Michael Crichton

    Michael Crichton has yert produced antoher great book, yet not of his best. The plot is great and okay to follow, but isn't the techno-thriller sci-fi you would expect. FFor someone looking for techincal excitment this is a great buy. For those looking for a page-turner and captavating thriller, not so much.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2004

    Crackling and well-sustained suspense

    When a Norton wide-body jet experiences an in-flight emergency that kills three people and injures many more, the manufacturer's Incident Review Team gears up for action. Casey Singleton, a recently promoted business unit manager who's the Quality Assurance representative on that team, knows almost immediately that it wasn't turbulence. The press, though, accepts that explanation as offered by the plane's flight crew. After all, what makes for a more dramatic story than a greedy corporation's attempted coverup of its unsafe aircraft? Casey knows that this is a dangerous time for Norton managers to be poking around the production areas. With a major sale of the company's airframes to an overseas market pending, a labor dispute reaching the boiling point, and a mysterious conflict going on at the topmost management level, anything can happen. But the divorced mother who started her own career with Norton on the production line believes she can keep herself safe - and even if she can't, she's still going to find out what really happened on that flight. AIRFRAME has its slow passages, but it also offers crackling and well-sustained suspense. Its characters are well drawn, and its resolution manages to be surprising, logical, and poignant - all at the same time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not One of His Better Books

    I was looking for a book to read that held me from start to finish. A book that makes you want to forget about going to bed until you read the last word on the last page. This book didn't hold my interest. I found it dull and hard to continue reading. This story could have been told in less than 150 pages. I'm not sure if I'll buy another Crichton book again.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Very Deep and Interesting

    The book of Airframe is one of Michael Crichtons best novels that I have read. The story is very interesting and if you like mystery novels this is one of them. It will pull you in. You do not find out what the cause of the accident is untill the end. A great book. I hope you enjoy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    Amazing book

    Awesome book to read that keeps you coming back for more and also reveals the true nature of the airline industry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2014

    What happens at end?

    Why did plane almost crash?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2014

    One of my favorite books!

    One of my favorite books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2013

    Thrilling

    A very exciting book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    Good book

    This book is a good book except for the language.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2013

    I love almost every Michael Crichton novel I've ever read. It is

    I love almost every Michael Crichton novel I've ever read. It is my kind of fiction. The reason this one gets four stars instead of five is the lack of a real "story" in an abstract sense. This read more like a case study of an in-flight incident. This book did redeem itself in the end. I would still recommend this book to anyone who likes Crichton's style, but it may take you longer to read. There is plenty of detail, but it is not very exciting. The ending is perfect and plausible, but if you're looking for an edge-of-your-seat Prey/Jurassic Park, try one of his other books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2013

    Fascinating

    He does it again. I read this in two weeks.
    I was very skeptical about this at first, because it obviously sounded more technical than action, and which it was very technical, however, it was so good that I would most definitely recommend this book to, and we'll anyone who likes a good Michael Crichton book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2012

    Boring.

    Nothing much happened, just a lot of talking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    one of the best crichtons ever

    not as good as timeline (best book ever) but still more than five stars

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    Read on a coast to coast flight

    I enjoyed the engineering aspects of this. The mystery ending was plausible. Reading it at 30k feet added a dimension of excitement for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    Fabulous!

    It was a very well-written book, with a plot that is intriging and that questions many aspects of society. Very good right up to the dramatic end.

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  • Posted January 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Review

    A fascinating plot idea but delivered awkwardly and without originality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2012

    Awesome!!!!

    This book is an intriguing page turner, it will keep you guessing until the end!

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  • Posted September 4, 2011

    Ugh!!

    Couldn't finish it. Too wordy, or scientific.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2010

    AIRFRAME

    AIRFRAME is an easy read and enjoyable, the theme behind the story is easy to follow and discover what happens.
    The book doesn't take long to read.
    It is easier to read than most Crichton books, in the sense that it is not scientific and therefore more understandable.
    The book follows what goes on inside of making an airplane, I didn't know that some parts of the plane where guaranteed by other sources (such as the engines)
    There are a lot of components in the airplane frame that are inspected by other departments and you get a different appreciation of what it takes to manufacture and to discover problems.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2009

    Fascinating study of how planes are built and the whys and wherefors.....

    I can't believe that I just read Airframe and a Continental flying from Rio to Houston has to land in Miami due to extreme turbulence and passenger injuries. I am waiting for the news services to tell me about the flaps!!!! Thanks for a great, informative, and interesting read, JeanTC

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