Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Broken Parachute Man: My Review

With many fictional works it is necessary for the reader to suspend disbelief, to enter into the world the author created and to accept the rules of that world over the rules of the real world. We don't complain that Harry Potter isn't realistic because we willingly suspend our disbelief in magic, witches, magical creatures and more. However, once the rules have been set, we generally expect the rest of the action in the book to follow those rules. We don't expect Hermione to start being stupid or Malfoy to become Ron's new best friend. With books set in the real world, absent some explanation, we expect normal rules of human interaction to apply--and yet if those rules applied too much, we wouldn't have stories because it is the out of the ordinary that attracts out attention. The question isn't whether a book should feature something outside the norm but rather how far outside the norm is it possible to go before labelling a book as fantasy. I've pondered that question as I've read this book.

On the plus side, The Broken Parachute Man was an enjoyable engaging read. It was classic good guy vs bad guy with the good guy staying one step ahead. On the minus side I found it unrealistic. It is the story of an over-fifty overweight (almost 300 lbs) low level white collar worker for the largest pharmaceutical company in the country. He has basically been almost a failure all his life. A plane on which he was travelling to make a presentation is hijacked by terrorists and he is put in a parachute and then sucked from the plane when they blow open the door. He is wearing only a business suit, and it is winter in Idaho. He lands in a snowbank and not onlysurvives the fall but also manages to stay alive for weeks. He remembers reading a shredded wheat box as a child that told how to start a fire with a bow and string. Using a tree branch and his shoe string, he was able to do so. He was able to trap animals for food using a trap he managed to make. He lost the most of his fingers, his toes, parts of his ears and nose and his foreskin to frostbite, and lost all his extra weight but he survived.

He was picked up by some snowmobile riders who took him to the local hospital. While there he was questioned by Homeland Security--it seems the terrorists parachuted to safety and the plane crashed killing all on board. Despite being under guard he escapes and makes his way to Las Vegas where he joins the street people and starts to investigate why this happened to him.

I don't usually read thriller-type books so I'm not sure of the level of suspension of disbelief normally required, but this book takes a lot. The message of the book is clearly that big pharma=big money=bad; but still it seems that quest for money led to the discovery of a great new drug (even if it, like most drugs, had some downsides).

Thanks to Elizabeth at Phenix & Phenix for the review copy. I enjoyed reading it.

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