“Airliner Down” is a fast-paced stand-alone technical thriller written by John Etzil. For the author’s premiere novel, the book tells a memorable story that feels a little like the movie Die Hard with pieces of Airport 75 sprinkled in. The majority of the events take place on an aircraft over the Pacific Ocean. For me, the events that unfold are not something any of us want to happen, yet the author does a decent job of making them believable. The audiobook narration was well performed by Alan Taylor; a rather prolific narrator on Audible with nearly 90 books at the time of this review. If you are one who enjoys a decent thriller story containing good research and realistic feeling events, I recommend you give the book a try. I think you will be surprised how engrossing Airliner Down can be. Is it perfect, no; but that is OK. There are a few periods of turbulence along the way, yes as with a real flight, turbulence is often limited in duration and only small annoyances often overlooked once the journey is complete.
On a side note, like the author, I too am a private pilot and I have family who work for the airline industry. That was one of my main reasons for listening to the book. So, I’m aware of many of the more technical aircraft and airline details the author includes in his book. I thought his research and ability to explain some of the more technical aspects of the industry were spot on. There were a few slight issues or things I would have added, yet I understand not wanting to overwhelm people who may be less technical with too much detail. It is a thriller that takes place on an airplane, not an airplane thriller. I enjoyed the inclusion of industry specific vocabulary such as jump seat, buddy pass, etc. I felt the characters themselves also had personality and felt multi-dimensional as the book progressed. We clearly see how revenge can consume a person and cause them to do anything for payback. A few of the character’s life events and dysfunctional elements seemed over the top, at times, but this could be due to my rather uneventful upbringing. The writing, though strong, seemed at time to be more young adult (YA). The story was able to carry these downfalls so do not let this discourage you from listening. I know it is the author’s first novel, and I would expect to see his writing mature in future books.
A few other areas that I felt could have been stronger were the way communication was handled between the airline, center, and the aircraft. Although the systems are rather antiquated when compared to our modern smartphone’s ability to text, it seemed like radio or ACARS was not in scope. I am not a structural engineer nor someone who is an expert in aerodynamics or flight characteristics, but I felt the damage caused to the airline was more than an aircraft would be able to withstand inflight. Again, such over-the-top aspects can add to the suspense or build-up of tension wondering when everything will fall apart.
Regarding the book audio narration, I felt that Alan Taylor did a decent job. The book did have a few places where there were volume inconsistencies and a I thought I picked up some background noises; yet these were few and far between. The narrator also did a good job of voicing the multiple characters found in the book and keeping their voices consistent. I would have preferred better female narration. However, I understand how difficult it can be for a male narrator to voice female characters well. Overall, the narration was good and neither added or subtracted from the story itself. I will have to listen to more books by this narrator to really know his style and skill.
For parents and younger readers, be aware that this book contains adult subject matter along with vulgar language; at times quite heavy. The author includes innuendoes and multiple places containing sexual topics or discussions of sex. There is also some focus on relationships and infidelity, yet the author uses this to weave in a few parts of the story along the way. I would not recommend the book for younger readers or anyone offended by anything mentioned above.
In summary, the book held my attention. I liked that I had background in both aircraft and the airline industry, but this is not required to enjoy the book. The book has well defined story aspects giving it the feel of a well-developed story. Even with a few of the bumps along the way, I would ask that the captain turn on the seatbelt sign as this book does take you on a thrill ride. Enjoy the trip!