Top critical review
At least we now know what he wanted to say...
on February 11, 1997
_Airframe_ is absolutly not his best novel to date, but it is a nice conclusion for his nay-saying 90s.
Since the _Jurassic Park_ in 1989, Crichton becomes an author that bashes a lot. He attacks biotech, and Japanese tycoons, and femm, so to get readers' attention. We now know why he did it. It is all about the power.
From the beginning of Crichton's writing career in mid-60s, he writes a lot on female issues. I have all 8 John Lange books, but only read two of them so far, so I can't say too much about this period. But started from his _A Case of Need_ (a book written under the psuedonym "Jeffery Hudson", a famous 19th century dwarf), Crichton wrote intensively on female issues. In this book, a young woman seeking for independence dies for malpractice of abortion, then illegal in the pre-Roe-vs-Wade United States. A doctor (written in third person, I remember) who wants to clear the bad name for his American-Chinese collegue started to investigate...
The dead body, Karen Rendall, is the mascot of a Boston-based medical family. She wants to escape from her reality, and failed. That's why she lost her life.
The movie _Carey Treatment_ is loosely based on this novel, and is lousy to death. It is just another seen-and-forget whodunit flick Hollywood made every year. If you want to read more about this issue, read Robin Cook's _The Acceptable Risk_. It mentioned about another Boston raised family girl. Her medical career, medical boy friend, and best-of-all, the Salem witchcraft trial that links herself and her 17th century great-...-grandmother. This is a nice book talking abot the forming of role model to a woman who does not know what to do.
Women in Crichton's books are evolving. From a dead body to be exaimed, to a math genius who can risk the life of a team just because she wanted to (Karen Ross of _Congo_), to someone who can start a sex war (Meredith Johnson of _Disclosure_), and to someone who can arrange a counter attack (whoever she was in the f**king lousy _The Lost World_). His female casts are more and more comfortable with power. They are much more reasonable. And responsible. Cathy Singleton of the _Airframe_ is absolutely a woman like this. She is good at her field, she is divorced, the whole plot happends at the week her daughter is at her ex-husband's house. She is free to Rambo the system. And she confronts woman -- Jennifer Malone, a reckless new kid in town who knows not a damn about knowledge but seeks power.
You might say that the enemy Singleton faced is Marder and Richman, no, they are not. Look who's the last one mentioned in the book at page 351. Our dear Jennifer.
That's why I believe I've grasped Crichton's hidden moral in these books. He wanted to talk about power. As time goes by, women are actually gaining more power. There is no true equal between sexes. And losers can still exploit other's sympathy to gain power. You can not be alone, if you are the member of a group who consisted half of the world's people. Whoever owns the power, in Crichton's view, should not be left unsupervised. And whoever owns the power, as time flies, will learn to use it better. That's probably why he bashes around.
The diaster 35,000 ft above, I believe, is based on two real events. A crash of China Airlines (a Taiwan carrier) at Nagoya Japan, 1994 for the autopilot issue. And a crash in Russia where the pilot lets his child fool around with the plane.
Miss Miriam in _The Great Train Robbery_ is the woman who handles her power best in Crichton's former books. Now Singleton becomes the one who can control herself so well. Just like Miss Miriam. Otherwise this book is still a piece of trash. He even dares to recycle Virtual Reality for this novel. The original Crichton flavor is gone. We no longer see breathtaking (and also errornous) high tech detail in this book, but at least we now know what he wanted to say.