Thursday, April 23, 2015
Flight of The Fantasy, by C Blake Powers
After reading this review, I want you to go DIRECTLY to Amazon and get this book. Don't go to the kitchen for a sandwich, don't check your email: just go get this book. You should already have signed up for Kindle Unlimited, so it's a freebie. If you haven't, then it's going to cost you 11 cents per page. If you think that price is too high, then you should sign up for Kindle Unlimited.
Because you need to read this story.
Here's the basic outline: in 1945, a damaged American B24 bomber makes a forced landing in the Libyan desert on the way back from a bombing run. All but three of the crew (led by the luckless Joe Buckley) bail out, and are never heard of again. The pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer remain with the plane; the pilot miraculously makes a wheels-up landing. The three crew attempt to make repairs to the engines which would allow them to take off, but die of exposure. In 1989, the plane is discovered, with their mummified bodies strapped into their seats.
For those too young to remember, 1989 was a dark year for US/Libyan relations. In 1986, President Reagan had ordered the capital bombed as reprisal against the Libyan sponsored terrorist attack of a nightclub frequented by US soldiers in Berlin; then, in December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed in flight by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, with Gaddafi claiming responsibility. His acts had been progressively unpredictable, and his policy reversals resulted in an unstable government, which would eventually bring him down. Despite the uncertainty, some contact is always maintained between governments, and this official/unofficial program brought John Ellis to a distant, unused airport to repair the B24, Foster's Fantasy, and fly it out of country, eventually to return to the US.
In addition to the formal, legal limits on his ability to accomplish his task, the bribes, theft, and posturing which form an integral part of the culture all combine to mean that he must work twice to get the job done once. Libyan crews assigned to help him simply refuse. John takes a unique approach: he co-opts the local homeless sand children into forming his crew. These are throw-away children, born of unfortunate alliances, and essentially tossed out into the desert to fend for themselves. They have no illusions about their future; there is a thriving trade in sex slaves, who are sold cheap, usually with the expectation that they will die in the process. He has a total of ten crew, the oldest early teens, most 10 years or younger. Some of them learn how to perform the repair tasks needed, rebuilding engines and guns. All of them find a role, cleaning, painting, able to get into tiny spaces where an adult American can fit, and not insignificantly, keeping others away from the B24 when John has to leave the base for his tent every night.
And there appear to be ghosts haunting the bomber as well.
While the culture is both alien and abhorrent, John does find one point of contact. The Libyan social rules demand that the more you despise another, the more flowery and respectful your language must be. John, like myself, grew up in the deep South, where “Bless your heart” is one of the fiercest cutting tools ever expressed. I do so attest that this is the case, and have been known to use that phrase in a context which would not support vulgarity; the message, however, is nonetheless transmitted.
With the background of the unstable Gadaffi government and the 'inshallah' culture of the desert, John and his ten sand children labor to get Foster's Fantasy into flying condition.
I mentioned the ghosts.
There is another complication as well, one which is a function of the disintegrating Soviet Union and the lack of trust within the Libyan government. This element provides the key to a problem brewing in John's mind: can he leave his sand children when he flies out, knowing that they will inevitably become victims of either the legal system or the slave trade?
Now: you have finished the review. Go DIRECTLY to Amazon, and GET THIS STORY! I expect you to take care of this before the end of the day. Got it?