4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
The magic of reading is exponentially increased (in my humble opinion) when an author is able to take his reader on a journey. I've always had a soft spot for literature that takes me to faraway places and exotic locations. Although a dragon-ridden fantasy land is attractive, there is something extraordinarily special about an adventure taking place in real locations on the other side of the world. The Helicopter Pilot takes the reader to East Africa where an elite group of individuals, helicopter pilots, shuttle employees of an oil company back and forth between their various locations. Although mundane enough of an activity, the environment, challenges, locals, and living conditions make this an adventure for everyone involved.
The book begins with our nervous and rule-abiding protagonist, Edward, who finally arrives at his destination airport in Africa. His mind is running a mile a minute trying to recall all of the warnings, con schemes, and ways that the local population could dupe him out of his life and livery. He ultimately makes his way to his new home and begins his short-term employment. He must learn to live in his sub-par accommodations, fly under rules much riskier than he is used to, and admit that he may not be as worthy of a pilot as he thought. Along the way, he is given ample opportunity to sample the local area. How will Edward survive his tour of employment in Africa under these austere conditions? Will he learn to adapt to the completely different flying environment than he usually would be employed? Will he work past his prejudices and appreciate the beauty that Africa has to offer? All of these questions and more await the lucky individual that picks up The Helicopter Pilot.
By far the thing that I liked the best about this book was the cast of characters. On one hand, you have our nervous leading role, Edward, who seems to be less than fit for operations in Africa. He attacks every task by the rulebook, is afraid of everything on the continent, but somehow manages to grow throughout his deployment. Next, there is Mike. Mike was not only born to fly helicopters, but he was born to fly helicopters in Africa. He mixes with the locals, is a remarkable pilot, and seems to be fearless. In between these two personalities we have a swath of characters that portray wisdom, racism, nationalism, and even flat-out apathy. The characters in this book show off both the best and worst of humanity.
Beyond the characters, there is a great deal to love about this book. Considering their location and the prominently light-skinned pilots that are employed by the company, racism is definitely a theme throughout this book. There are a couple of very poignant discourses on racism and the irrationality from which it stems in this day and age. Next, which is often the case in books like these, the novel teaches the reader a bit about the breathtaking countryside, culture, and people that are in East Africa. Finally, this book is also about adaptation and finding our way in difficult situations. Along the adventure we see Edward growing, doing things he wouldn't have done at the beginning of his employment, becoming a bit braver, making mistakes, and battling the urge to revert to his timid self.
The only thing I really disliked about this book became apparent after I had finished it. Whereas an epic fantasy, a war novel, or a crime thriller all have distinct plots, purposes, and conclusions, this one is not so clear-cut. Even though the novel does come to a climax of tensions, there is no particular purpose to the novel. It simply describes these pilots' time in East Africa, the changes they go through, and the challenges they endure. Don't get me wrong, this really didn't take away from my personal enjoyment of this book. Only when you look back on the entirety of the story does it seem to lack a solid plot.
Quite frankly, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I love reading about faraway places I have yet to visit and seeing how people can adapt to these different locations. I love reading about different cultures and how things may be different from the way that I've lived my life. For this reason, I have no hesitation whatsoever in giving The Helicopter Pilot 4 out of 4 stars. Since it didn't affect my enjoyment of the story at all, I wouldn't even consider removing a star for the plot issue mentioned above. If you love reading about remote locations, have a passion for flying, or love reading about the nuances of human nature, I would unreservedly recommend this book to you. If your literature needs to have a clear-cut goal to surmount, a quest to accomplish, or a bad guy to vanquish, maybe you should stay away from this one.
The Helicopter Pilot - A Novel
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like Scerakor's review? Post a comment saying so!