It s interesting to re read a book after a long time, and see whether your opinion of it has changed I first read authoer Aldous Huxley s Brave New World when I was about 17, and found it very exciting and stimulating I re read it when I was 57, and after 40 years found it rather flat and dull I ve just finished reading No Highway after a gap of about 60 years, and found it as good as when I first read it It was interesting to see what I remembered and what I had forgotten I was about 13 or 14 when I first read it, when I was still crazy about aeroplanes and wanted to be a pilot By the time I was 15 my ambitions had dropped, and my main interest was cars From the age of 11 to 14 most of what I read had something to do with aeroplanes, and if No Highway had not been about aeroplanes I would probably not have read it at all.When I first read the book the most memorable things were the technical bits to do with the aircraft I could recall the love story vaguely, but I could not recall the British Israelite angle at all, though it is quite prominent in the story, though I did recall the part with the planchette I read it about the time that the first commercial jets, the De Havilland Comets, were in the news because of unexplained crashes I seem to recall that when it was determined that the cause of the crashes was metal fatigue I knew what that meant because it was central to the plot of No Highway but it is possible that it was the other way round that I understood the point of the plot because of the real life incidents with the Comets.It was the first book by Nevil Shute that I had read, and because I had enjoyed it I went on to read others written by him, though I still thought and after re reading it still think that No Highway was one of his best I think it has aged well Of course, one is aware that it belongs to its time, and that many things have changed since then On the technical side the most obvious thing is air navigation Back then the cabin crews were small because the planes were smaller and carried fewer passengers but the flight deck crew was large, including, in addition to two pilots, a flight engineer, a navigator and a wireless operator Advances in electronics have made the last two redundant Social attitudes too are different One of the most noticeable is that sex has replaces smoking as one of the most commonly described recreational activities Another is that sex roles were much rigid back then males were useless at cooking and cleaning and buying clothes for children females were useless at research and design I find the social differences interesting too, because I m also reading a historical novel, Dissolution by C.J Sansom When reading historical novels I always have one eye out for anachronisms, things that the author gets wrong about the period in which the novel is set No Highway is set in our past, but it was contemporary when it was written So when I first read it, it was much closer to the time in which it was set and I did not notice such things, but the second time around, it gives an authentic view of a vanished past Give it another 60 years, and some things in the book may need to be annotated, because there will then be no one around who lived thourgh that period But I thought it was a good read back then, and it s still a good read now, and probably will be in 60 years time too, this aircraft is in a very dangerous condition It s got a very serious fatigue trouble in the tailplane You must turn back to England at once Theodore Honey, p57Not a bad way to begin a story with an aeroplane about to fall out of the sky If you heard someone say here is a novel centred on metal fatigue, that might not have been so compelling, but metal fatigue which might kick in at any moment and have a devastating effect on a select group of passengers whom we have got to know quite well that is another story The bespectacled research scientist Dr Theodore Honey , a specialist in metal fatigue, is flying to Canada in a Reindeer aircraft, on a mission to investigate the earlier mysterious crash of the same type of aircraft, which stacked into a mountain in the wilds of Labrador Suddenly realising the danger, mild mannered Dr Honey has expressed his apprehensions to the nice stewardess Marjorie Corder and to the famous Monica Teasdale, a much married American film star, an erstwhile favourite of Theo s and his late wife Monica, though seriously past her best years, is still a magnetic presence view spoiler Despite Theo s warning, the pilot, Captain Samuelson, flies on to Canada but heeds the scientist s words by cutting the middle engines It emerges that the pilot of the crashed plane was a long time friend and colleague and Captain Samuelson doubts the crash was due to pilot error When it is clear that the current flight will resume, Honey takes matters into his own hands and disables the plane by raising the landing gear, while the plane is on the tarmac Bent plane.With this surprising and uncharacteristic act the unassuming and unlikely hero draws attention to himself and his cause with far reaching personal and professional consequences Both the stewardess and the actress fall for him in their way, the stewardess wants to care for him and create something worthwhile in her life, the actress yearns for solid domestic happiness which might have been hers had she said yes to the home town boy rather than seek the brighter lights In this way Shute supplies a pattern of incompleteness in his characters lives which by the end of the book is remedied in good part Dr Honey lives in a world of domestic male incompetence which can only be remedied with the installation of a good woman who will it be stewardess or actress Even Dr Honey s boss Dennis Scott our narrator has a wife, but no child life isn t fulfilled until the family is created hide spoiler Whew, finally finished this Very tedious reading because the plot was so focused on a certain type of plane and Mr Honey trying to test mental fatigue after around 1,400 hours of flying time I like planes and flying, but all I can say was that this was boring Really boring P I like the beginning and Mr Honey s character was unique although weird at times My favorite scene was when he was in the plane scaring everyone about crashing.Anyway, glad to have read this, and I probably will still watch the movie based off this book I ll hope it s a little interesting Good story Nevil Shute s stories just keep getting better though my edition by was full of typos as was Ruined City which was awful At first, I thought this book about aircraft engineering might be dull But Shute did not disappoint He is comfortable telling about his own subject as an expert in aeroplane design, engineering and flying A youngish man is put in charge of the British Research Laboratory at Farnborough He soon learns that one of his employees, a religious eccentric, believes he s discovered massive faults in a plane that s recently taken to the skies Through research he learns the tail could fail after 1400 hours of flight Dr Dennis Scott realizes he has about a 1000 hours to do something before the planes in service fail in the air It is discovered that one that has crashed over Canada had in fact done almost 1400 hours since it had been the plane used in testing Resolving the issue is now urgent and the tension builds nicely.When Shute describes Mr Honey, you have to wonder if he is describing some aspects of his own character in a disparaging way He seems to show sympathy for Mr Honey, who is a spiritual being, like Shute himself I think he may also be describing Barnes Wallis when he references Prendergast who seems like a bit of a tyrant as one assumes that genius had to be at times He describes, or I have read, where Wallis used to make himself ill sometimes with the stress of designing and building Airship R100, which he and Nevil Shute were engaged upon especially due to the song and dance routines of Air Ministry bureaucrats and the Politicians, such as Lord Thomson of Cardington not to mention the press Shades of Airship R101 tragedy appear too High level arguing about airworthiness, profit and prestige at the expense of human life and ambition The research establishment etc comes into the story, as it did with the R101 boffins who were not allowed to finish their study of the amended, redesigned airship and come to their conclusions A whitewash and cover up was the result.This story has modern day overtones too i.e with the grounding by President Donald J Trump of 737 s all over the world with profits and prestige affected Shute talks a lot about psychic phenomena in this book I had not realized just how far into those subjects he had gone The novel seems a little fantastic in parts, but at the end Dr Scott s wife tells him he really should write all this down as it will make a good book I had to wonder if Shute was hinting that much of this story is true After all, fact is often stranger than fiction Did he play around with the Ouija board and planchette Did that happen We ll never know. Theodore Honey Is A Shy, Inconspicuous Engineer Whose Eccentric Interests Are Frowned Upon In Aviation Circles When A Passenger Plane Crashes In Newfoundland Under Unexplained Circumstances, Honey Is Determined To Prove His Unorthodox Theory About What Went Wrong To His Superiors, Before Lives Are Lost But While Flying To The Crash Scene To Investigate, Honey Discovers To His Horror That He Is On Board One Of The Defective Planes And That He And His Fellow Passengers, Including A Friendly Young Stewardess And An Aging Movie Actress, Are In Imminent Peril Oh, Nevil Shute I do so adore your unabashed authorial self insertion I haven t read all Nevil Shute, or even the majority, but the ones I have read, I have strong opinions about In this one, Shute is himself twice, both in the narrator a young manager at an aeronautics company and the main character, a weedy, pathetic, but brilliant boffin.The novel opens with the young manager, Scott, talking about his job managing a bunch of brilliant but mildly eccentric scientists at a safety facility, a job much like the one Shute had before the WWII One of his scientists, Theodore Honey, is drawn as extremely eccentric He is widowed, with a pre teen daughter, and is essentially uncivilized in a way that is acceptable only in older novels He doesn t know how to cook or clean or buy clothes He is interested in many crackpot theories, including pyramidology, and the return of Jesus to England He is also quite brilliant at what he does, aeronautics wise Honey comes to Scott and tells him that the tail assembly of the brand new plane currently flying the Transatlantic flight is going to crystallize and shear off after a certain number of hours He is running tests on a tail to be sure, but it will be months before they get confirmation Scott is torn on whether to take this seriously on not On the one hand, pyramidology On the other hand, planes falling out of the sky for a reason that manifests quickly and without warning.Scott orders Honey to step up the testing and goes to see his own boss to quietly freak out about planes falling out of the sky He finds out that one of these planes HAS fallen out of the sky the prototype, which had almost the correct number of hours for Honey s theory, crashed in a stupid way It had been ruled pilot error, but the coincidence made Scott edgy.Scott and his boss decide that someone needs to go out to Newfoundland to investigate the wreckage Scott would go, but he is going to present his big important professional paper, and so he decides to send Honey, who is not personable, but is the expert on crystallized metal fatigue.As you can imagine, the plot is complicated from there I shan t give it all away, except to note that I find it completely and hilariously charming that Shute, who was 49 when it was published, depicted the nerdy, asocial little engineer as charming both an aging movie star and a bright and beautiful flight stewardess Thematically, I can tell that this book was written in the era when Shute still had faith in the British system It was not long after this that he emigrated to Australia because he found the country no longer to his taste.This book is by no means as strong as A Town Like Alice or On The Beach, but it is not unworthy to be on the shelf with them Shute s charming older men the narrators in Alice and Pied Piper, the Trustee from the Toolroom, are all extremely homey and sympathetic I always like to think of them as Shute himself, spinning stories I haven t read much from his early works, but I may go seek them out Evidently some of them are about daring young pilots, which Shute also was.I enjoy reading period books that do not think of themselves as period books It is not notable that Honey has trouble working his ration coupons and has three years of his jam sugar allotment saved Of course air stewardesses are unmarried and of course young wives don t work When I read stories that are ABOUT a period, these things always feel highlighted, but when I read books IN a period, they are just part of how life goes.Read if You want to read about failure and risk analysis Stories about nerdy little men who have women contending for them are amusing to you The installation of domestic hot water heaters is something you had never thought about You can tolerate some strange woo woo in your mostly science.Skip if You want a lot of action, intrigue, or plausible romance You have problems with outdated science You are unwilling to read about the typical breakfasts served to transatlantic passengers of the era I did enjoy reading about the time in Gander I mostly know it as the place a lot of transatlantic flights ended up at after 9 11, but of course, it s been an airport for a very long time. A withdrawn scientist working in self contented obscurity is forced into trying to avert aviation disaster It starts clever but ends very stupid A fine thriller ruined not by plotting but by the relentless desire of the author to foist an unlikely happy personal ending Could have been so much better. No Highway builds an absorbing, suspenseful story around the unlikely basis of scientific research which takes on a much stronger immediacy when it casts doubt on the safety of an airplane The trouble is, the theory suggesting the aircraft are unsafe comes from Theodore Honey, an untidy, eccentric scientist whom few take seriously One of his superiors, the book s narrator Dennis Scott, believes he may be right, but convincing higher officials poses a difficult problem When Honey is sent to Canada to investigate the wreckage of one of the aircraft which crashed, he finds that the plane on which he is traveling is near the possible danger point and tries to have it grounded The aftermath of this incident, Honey s relationships with a stewardess and a fellow passenger he met on the threatened plane, and the involvement of the narrator and his wife with Honey and his motherless young daughter Elspeth, form the rest of the plot.I read this novel after having watched and enjoyed the 1951 film adaptation No Highway In the Sky It s a case, I think, where book and film are both very good on their own and complement each other well even though they differ in some particulars In the book we get much deeper into the hearts and minds of the characters, and many are much better developed than the constraints of a film allowed I found it curious how the film s casting, in a physical sense, was totally wrong, and yet still managed to pull off the portrayal of the characters so I felt I recognized them when I read the novel The one I appreciated much in the book was Monica Teasdale her reflections on her simple American roots and what direction her life might have taken had she not become a famous actress are very moving, and naturally not something translated to film with the foreign glamor of Marlene Dietrich in the role Jimmy Stewart s Theodore Honey was also played a little broadly comical, whereas in the book Honey is rather pathetic and troubled In the film the doubts of Honey s sanity seem to be based off his absent minded personality, where the book gives him a background of intricate issues such as his interest in spiritualism and apocryphal religious theories and prophecies It seems reasonable for people to doubt a man s sanity because he believes he can predict the end of the world from the angle of the Great Pyramid than because he tries to unlock the door of the wrong house.The first person narration is unique the narrator relates events he witnessed, but also the parts that took place in his absence, with so much detail that it s practically third person I ve only encountered two authors that used this method, Shute and Max Brand You don t want to let the amounts of technical language put you off even if it s Greek to you, you can just go with the flow and gain a basic understanding from the context, for it is after all a vital part of the story It s written in such a way that I found it fascinating, even though most of it was beyond me The film s main weakness, a rather abrupt ending, is not present in the novel, which is much better rounded off and concluded the part that Honey s spiritualist dabblings play in the resolution is certainly eyebrow raising, but somewhat amusing A good read. This is a weird one Fundamentally, there s a good yarn here but it is clothed in some very old fashioned views about gender about social status and about families It made for slightly uncomfortable reading, even though I have lived through the era in which is was set and I therefore understand how things were then and how times have changed.I would not therefore recommend the book very strongly.
Nevil Shute Norway was a popular British novelist and a successful aeronautical engineer He used Nevil Shute as his pen name, and his full name in his engineering career, in order to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels He lived in Australia for the ten years before his death.
- 343 pages
- No Highway
- Nevil Shute
- 09 April 2019 Nevil Shute