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Airman Paperback – May 5, 2009
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Author of the popular Artemis Fowl series, Colfer ventures into slightly different territory in this fantasy, which has the heft of historical fiction; a subset of characters whose physical attributes reflect their evil natures; dry humor; visceral horror; and swashbuckling action that keeps the story from becoming overly dark. Born in the basket of an air balloon, Conor Broekhart is sure he is destined to fly. But at 14, he accidentally witnesses the murder of his tutor and the sovereign of the tiny Saltee Islands where he lives, and everything changes.Villainous Marshall Bonvilain throws him into prison, convincing him that his family believes him guilty of the crime. Thus begins his new life as inmate Conor “Finn,” who devotes his considerable abilities to breaking out of prison. Colfer grapples somewhat awkwardly with a few literary issues here: should he, for example, allow his hero to commit murder? There are also huge time gaps that are distracting and occasionally stall momentum. Readers may not notice, however, with so much else going for the book. Grades 10-12. --Stephanie Zvirin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Praise for Airman:'Swashbuckling high adventure . . . His strongest work yet' - Guardian'Better fun than this will be hard to come by' - The Times'A classic swashbuckling adventure' - Irish Independent ReviewPraise for other books by Eoin Colfer:'Wickedly brilliant' - Independent (on Artemis Fowl)'As ever, Colfer's story rattles along at a tremendous pace with a cast of eccentric and explosive characters' - Guardian (on The Supernaturalist)'Unputdownable' - Irish Times (on Half Moon Investigations) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The thing to know about Conor Broekhart, before all the nastiness occurred, was that he was born in the sky. A hot air balloon, if you wanted me to be more precise. A falling, soon-to-be-crushed, death trap of a balloon, to be even closer to the mark. Of course Conor didn't die, and as a result his family returned to their home on the Saltee Islands (just off the coast of Ireland) with a new baby to introduce to the King. Conor's father was the king's right hand man, and because they were so close the boy grew up running around the castle with his best friend, the princess. But that was before the king was murdered. Before Conor was thrown into jail on the Little Saltee island (think Alcatraz, but with less charm). Before the boy discovered how to survive in his new, harsh, surroundings and find a way out of his predicament. And now the princess and his family are in mortal peril, unless Conor can truly crack the riddle of how to construct a machine that will fly.
Is it fantasy? No more than any historical novel where the hero indulges in science. Is it science fiction? Only if you consider the notion of one man discovering the use of propellers on his own fantastical. Is it steampunk? No. Stop being silly. No this is, odd as it may sound, fiction with spice. That's not really a category, so I don't know if you can call it anything but original. Frances Hardinge's Fly by Night suffered similar categorical problems. Her book seemed like a fantasy, but like this book it was merely an alternate history. Still, if lumping this puppy in with 500+ page fantasy tomes is the only way to get kids to read it, so be it. I've no objections on my end.
For all its 416 pages, the book feels very tight. Colfer keeps a firm hand on the reins of his plot, never indulging too far in one direction or another. The result is a story that flies by with hardly a gasp for breath. This isn't to say that the author doesn't indulge in a small aside once in a while. He does, but they're always very quick and funny. For example, when the castle tower is on fire and King Nicholas must escape from his royal bathroom the text reads, "There was a window, of course. Nicholas was a great believer in the benefits of good ventilation. He was a devotee of meditation, too; but this was hardly the time for it."
There are also copious details that give the book just enough heft to keep it from feeling too frivolous. They tend to be little things. The scrape of the bolt on prison doors is described as "Top C", with the side note, "Social diarists record that survivors of Little Saltee often suffered from insomnia unless their bedchamber doors were fitted with rusted bolts." There are references to Napoleon's stay at Little Saltee (apparently he fared poorly). I liked the little mites that eat away the disease and filth from new prisoners. And Conor's method of writing down his schematics is probably the closest this book comes to science fiction, without ever really treading fully down that path.
Kids looking for excitement will find it from page one onward. And yet, for all its death-defying escapades, Colfer is very careful to cover his bases. He doesn't get sloppy on the details. By the end of the book the reasons why Conor wasn't killed at the same time as Nicholas and why the princess is left living are explained perfectly without so much as a glint of a gap in sight. Kids will enjoy the book because the characters are great and the story is fun. Adults will enjoy it because it won't require extraordinary suspensions of disbelief. Plus the fact that this is a stand-alone novel that does not lend itself naturally to sequels or a series is like a palate cleanser in this sequel-addled age with live in.
Colfer shows himself to be a skillful writer by his interesting choices. Under normal circumstances, when the hero in a story has a plan and doesn't let the reader in on it, usually that plan goes off without a hitch. It doesn't look as if Colfer understood that concept, though, and the book is stronger for it. He also must have never heard the rule that the more often the hero is knocked unconscious, the worse the book is. Conor gets his own fair share of blows to the head, but the author always plays fair and never uses that as an excuse to fudge details or bridge insurmountable distances. Well played.
I also had great respect for Colfer when he saw to it that his hero never became a murderer. Our heroes in movies and books like killing henchmen. The idea that an action packed storyline requires that your protagonist have blood on his hands is a complex issue, too easily skirted around. Colfer isn't afraid to face the problem head-on, though, making it perfectly clear that the "kill or be killed" mode of thought only means that under the right circumstances it is the people without the proper intelligence or imagination who are the ones who descend into becoming killers.
And on a personal note, I was happy to see that the Yanks in this book come off looking pretty good. Good King Nicholas, the forward thinking monarch on the Saltee throne, is an American. Linus Wynter, the kind blind prisoner who helps Conor survive prison, is also an American. We haven't looked this good on paper since Lee Scoresby first showed his face in The Golden Compass.
Some people say the book is The Count of Monte Cristo. Others argue that it feels more like The Man in the Iron Mask. With such esteemed comparisons, it shouldn't hurt matters any to also note that it also happens to be consistently interesting, smart, exciting, and fun. The finest book Eoin Colfer has ever written, and hopefully the start of more stories like this to come. Everyone should read it.
Eoin Colfer's Airman is definitely a book to read in your free time. Even those who are not that interested in this genre will find something to enjoy about it. This is a great book that truly displays the authors mastery of writing while entertaining the casual reader with a thick plot that moves at a fast pace.
First, the author describes the protagonist of this story, Conor Broekhart, as a boy born in an extraordinary way and has a very nice childhood. By saying that the childhood experiences of the main character were nice and protected way set up a plot twist in which he is thrust into a world of pain and misery for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The author also describes the protagonist as a boy obsessed with aeronautics and learned in the subject. Colfer masterfully intertwines that fact into the story plot and makes sure that Conor's obsession is not wasted and amounts to a shocking breakthrough later on in the story. It also helps us understand how the author thinks. It explains why the protagonist thinks about flying so often and compares himself to a scientist.
Second, this story takes place on the Saltee islands. In the first part of the book, Conor stays on Great Saltee with his friends and family. Here is where he learns the skills that benefit him through the rest of the story. In addition, it is the place where he shapes his morals and beliefs. Without his morals and beliefs, the story would have been completely different. The second part of the book takes place on Little Saltee. It is an awful place to be especially at the age of fourteen. On page pages 14 and 15, the author writes, "The Saltee prison was packed to bursting with the foulest dregs of humanity that Ireland and Great Britain had to offer. They worked the diamond mind until they had served their time or died. Most died. A sentence on little Saltee was a death sentence. Nobody really cared". This is used to describe how awful the prison in and to help the reader infer how Conor will live there once he is there. In the third part of the book, Conor returns to Great Saltee, is now free from the prison, and uses both the local area as well as the local people to aid him in saving his friends and family.
Third, the main overall conflict of the story is between the protagonist, Conor, and the antagonist, Bonvilain although not directly until the end. In the second part of the story, this conflict is not mentioned much if at all but is still present because through Conor's escape attempt, he is trying to defeat Bonvilain by leaving the prison that Bonvilain put him in and continuing his life and dreams, despite Bonvilain's attempt to ruin it. In the third and final part of the story, the protagonist has mixed feelings on whether or not to stop Bonvilain because he has the support of only one other person. In the end, he finally goes out, defeats the antagonist, and resolves the main conflict between him and Bonvilain to save his family and friend.
Fourth, the author is also very good at using imagery. This makes the story interesting and easier to understand. When he uses imagery, he uses lots of metaphors and similes and even throws in some allusions. It is as if he is making a salad and adding as much variety as he can. This gives the reader a clear idea of what the author had in mind while writing the story. It also makes sure we know all the details of what is going on and what is around the characters.
Fifth, the central theme of the story is about how we must all just keep going no matter what. The author is trying to tell us that no matter what happens, remember your values, and keep moving toward your goal. The author clearly illustrates this because in the story, Conor goes through countless obstacles that seem impossible and suicidal. Some of these tasks are so hard that it might simply be easier to give up in one way or another, whether it be quitting and committing suicide or going crazy to escape reality. The author writes on page 292, "Conor's face was stony. " I know what has happened, Mister Wynter. I know something of the real world now too. All I can hope for is to leave this continent alive, and even that is unlikely, but to attack a kingdom alone would be lunacy"". Conor is referring to Mister Wynters anger about Conor deciding not to attack Bonvilain. This shows how bad of a position he is and how large of an obstacle he must overcome to resolve the main conflict, which he eventually does overcome by unrelentingly trying to achieve his goal of saving his family and friend. This ending adds to the story by bringing in all the loose ends floating around quite nicely.
Overall, this book is quite good and I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in a good read. Eoin Colfer does a good job with this book as he always does with his other books. The story plot is engaging and has many plot twists. The main character is human and does have conflicting emotions as well as a hurt mental state. He is also a very dynamic and round character as you can see throughout the book. The author has exceeded my expectations that I had set based off his other books and has proved his skill as a writer yet again.
Most recent customer reviews
The only thing I disliked is the change of parts,like wonder.
I gave it five for a realistic story.
Hope there is a second book to!
Fascinating stories and a happy ending
I think I will read this one more time