Airframe seems to be a novel where you love it for one reason while other people hate it for the same. And what is this reason? First, many people say that this story "lacked depth" or was "easy reading" or "there was no content". Well, yes, some people like deep books, while others don't. Well these "critics" were correct in saying this was not a "deep" book. Although, Crichton does give you--and shows you--his vast knowledge on the subject of aircrafts.
Regardless of outside opinions, I give this novel a high grade. Sometimes you need light reading.
It begins with an airplane over the Pacific Ocean experiencing technical troubles, but somehow, it manages to land with only three (eventually four) deaths and 50 odd injuries. One hour later, administrators from Norton Aircraft--the manufacturers of the plane--gather together to see what has happened. And the investigation begins...
At the same time, the media decides to shift all the blame on the manufacturers themselves: Norton.
The lead character here is a woman named Casey Singleton who is in her late thirties. She is the complete opposite of the other characters surrounding her. Yes, she is a good woman with no outstanding attributes, but she was poorly developed and comes off rather plain. In fact, this story lacks any well-developed or memorable characters. They were all stereotypical clones. You have the know-nothing-side-kick, the evil-TV-producer, the always-mean-and-angry-boss, the big-stud-airplane-driver/boyfriend, the smooth-talking-TV-interviewer, and the foul-mouth-obnoxious-co-workers. However, this is what you sometimes have come to expect in Crichton's later novels. Like many of his stories, the plot was not driven by characters, but more by information itself.
Some said the ending has a very weak climax, but I beg to differ. It includes a very satisfying section where the protagonists calmly scare the TV executive, Jennifer Malone--whom you will come to dislike greatly.
Like Tom Clancy and Executive Orders, this book puts the media in a bad light. It is true that news organizations can be an easy target, as they are in the story of Airframe, but Crichton is over-stereotyping them just a bit. Also, another aspect that one might consider a negative about Michael Crichton's characterization in Airframe. As with Rising Sun, he has an extremely smart character teamed with an ignorant one. Why? Well, I am the ignorant character represents us--the reader, and the smart character represents him. Therefore, he is teaching us. This usually slows down the story in parts. Example: "Gee, I don't get why master Michael", "Well, grasshopper, let me tell you the answer..." And then he rambles on for a while explaining something.
On the upside, the epilogue written is rather creative. It has stories in the newspaper printed out on every central character and explains what happens to each one. This is the most original aspect of the novel and marked. It is good to know he is trying new ideas - even though he is a proven best-selling author.
Over all, Airframe is easy reading with details where and when it counts. There is nothing redundant about this story. The possible exception is the rather sluggish beginning. Just do not expect any killer plot or action--because this novel provides neither. At first, you will be reading slowly, but by the middle, you will not be able to put Airframe down--despite any weaknesses in the book.