The Philosopher’s Flight
By Tom Miller
Read by: Gibson Frazier
Length: 13 hrs and 36 mins
Release date: 02-13-18
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
A thrilling debut from ER doctor turned novelist Tom Miller, The Philosopher’s Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art. “Like his characters, Tom Miller casts a spell.” (Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club and The Last Bookaneer)
Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service—a team of flying medics—Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals…http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Philosophers-Flight/Tom-Miller/9781508253457
Imagine a different world, sort of Steampunk, but without the total defiance of the laws of physics and some sort of mystical substance like ether.
To be sure, there are still some of those acoutrements I associate with steampunk, and, there’s not a perfect one-to-one correspondence of our physics to the physics of Tom Miller’s invented world. Neither is it so off-the-wall that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief. But, the most important part of the the story isn’t found in the laws of physics, or science or even creative world building; this one is about human dignity and ideals, about gender roles and what would society be like if those gender rules were, not reversed but, disturbed. When women provide the means of winning wars, it certainly changes the balance of power. And, like in our own world, when gender roles are challenged it causes an uproar.
There are not many books I like as much as I did THE PHILOSOPHER’S FLIGHT — it is well-written, well-narrated, relevant and it resonates.
At the same time. in the time before women assumed military power, gender roles, and power, were pretty much as our world experiences, and those in power behave in the ways we would expect, ie., what we’ve been seeing happen for the past, 500 to 10,000 years.
Our hero, with a thousand obstacles in his path is unique as he can fly as only a few men can is persistent and that allows him to persevere. The characters are interesting, well-developed, and usually, driven. Different, but not free of the traditional expression of gender, the characters are still hampered by fervent religious sociopaths and politics.
I found the author’s re-imagining of the world, gender-roles is fresh, unexpected and brilliant.
The complexity of the world-building, the background as related throughout the story and in the appendices is remarkable, uniform, and consistent.
Gibson Frazier, the narractor, is the perfect naive, never-been-in-the-big-city, youth. There’s a guy who is masculine, but who cries, without shame, I believe. But he also wants his woman, his slightly bossy woman. He is awesome in his voicing of this gender-confused world.
More than gender-confusion, this story also speaks to today’s societal and political climate; the book asks questions about right and wrong, and how words, coupled with charisma and a platform, can be powerful.
With the prologue, a bit in the middle, and the ending we don’t get a cliff-hanger so much as the promise of a series — a series I will definitely follow. THE PHILOSOPHER’S FLIGHT is a remarkable debut!
The Author on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17490879.Tom_Miller
Note there is another Tom Miller, an accomplished writer of non-fiction. But, he is apparently not the same Tom Miller. I was unable to locate a website for this Tom Miller.