Matt's Reviews > Airman

Airman by Eoin Colfer
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Sep 09, 09

Read in August, 2009

I've recently enjoyed reading several books by oddball YA author Eion Colfer, creator of the Artemis Fowl series. While the adventures of the young criminal mastermind named after a goddess and a chicken have garnered a lot of press, his novel Airman has not. This is too bad, as it is a genuinely engaging, funny, and heart-ripping story. Chronicling the adventures of one Conor Broekhart, the fictitious first teenager to achieve powered flight from the fictitious Saltee Islands, it is a swashbuckling and frequently painful adventure.

Set in the Victorian era, with a cameo by Queen Vicky herself, the story is basically a steampunk Count of Monte Cristo. It is a story of betrayal, imprisonment, science, swordplay, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. However, said evil is so nasty and cunning and potent that victory is by no means assured. The most famous element of Dumas' Count, that of revenge, is by no means absent from this story. However, Conor never quite gives in to its abominable embrace, and is instead rescued by his obsessive pursuit of flight.

Something I really like about this book is that the aeronautic aspect of the novel is handled very realistically. For Conor to fly, he has to figure how to fly, and when no one has ever done this before, it's damned hard. The longer the wings, the heavier the wings, engines are even heavier, propellers have never been curved before, etc. Aluminum plays what seems to me an unlikely role at the end, but even so, my hat is off to Colfer. Steampunk science has never felt more challenging, or more rewarding.

I do have a few quibbles about the book, and particular its ending, which seemed a bit too pat given the traumas the hero(es) have endured. If I were in Conor's place, I wouldn't be off to school, but half ready for the madhouse instead. That having been said, though, the overall book is terrific and satisfying. Go read it, so say I.
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