The actual title of the book is Flying the Lifeline: Volume 1, Marine Helicopter Pilot. It is written by Patrick R. Shaub and is the first part of a three part set. This first book covers the main character’s life from childhood until the end of his career in the Marines. It has 324 pages, including a helpful glossary of Marine and flying terminology. The style of the novel is first person, written from the perspective of a man named Paul Stone, who is, I believe, closely associated with the persona of the author.
What I Liked:
I really liked the first chapter. Without spoiling anything, it sets the reader in the life and death situation of the Vietnam War in general and helicopters in specific right away. The rest of the book flows from the emotional center of that event even until the very last word.
I also liked that the book was written with the precision of military language and nomenclature, but at the same time it was careful to explain what was being described. The author does a great job of helping non-military people like myself appreciate the book without having to learn a whole other language.
I enjoyed the details of the book. Shaub is clearly an aviation expert, and this comes through. There are times he reminds me of Tom Clancy–the way he can spend four or five pages describing the rotors on a helicopter, how it looks, why it is designed that way, what the upward thrust is, how it sounds and so forth. Shaub is writing a different kind of book than a Clancy thriller, but the love affair with the technology and machinery is similar.
What Was Challenging:
Some readers might find the immersion into the Marine lifestyle a little daunting. Although the author does not use strong profanity or imagery, there is still plenty of testosterone-filled boozing and bravado in the book that might not be comfortable for everyone.
A second challenge, that is actually a positive, is the MC’s flaw. Every character needs a flaw in order to be sincere and genuine, and through the first half of this book I couldn’t spot the flaw. Then I realized, that since it is written in first person, the MC probably doesn’t know his own flaw, but by the last third of the book it was evident that the flaw was arrogance.
What was of Special Interest:
In my reading of the book, individual Marines seem like great people, but the Marine Corps as a whole looks like it is run by self-absorbed jerks. Having never been in the military, I don’t know if that is accurate or not, but when I finished reading it I was mad at the Marines and wanted to go Google some of these people mentioned in the book and write them some nasty letters, then I remembered this was fiction. Or is it?
Who Would Like It:
People interested in military, military history, The Vietnam War, flying, helicopters, The Marines, or biographical novels in general. It is biographical fiction, so people who like that will really enjoy this book. I also think that young people who are thinking about the military as a career would benefit from it, because it shows in very stark terms both the positives and the negatives of the military life. I am anxiously waiting for Volume 2.
image from Amazon.com