Friday, March 14, 2014

The Single Most Depressing Book in the World

Until recently, I thought Neville Shute's "On The Beach" held that title (everyone on earth is dying due to radiation.)  And then I discovered one I hadn't read by Nelson De Mille, who co-wrote "Mayday" with Thomas Block, whom he had met in second grade. 

The plot of "Mayday:"  A jumbo passenger jet is flying along at 35,000 ft. minding its own business when out of nowhere comes a missile which pierces the plane mid-center with such force that it goes right on out the other side.

Pressurization drops instantly.  The people that weren't killed outright are now brain impaired to the point of becoming like zombies.  But two men who happened to be using the toilets at the time the missile passed through were spared due to the fact that the doors held and pressurization stayed the same within them.

Meanwhile, the entire crew is dead or dying.  The passengers, dazed and mindless, are wandering the aisles.  One of the men in the toilet returns to his seat to find his wife and two daughters slumped in their seats.  He knows what happened to them and he knows that they can never be restored so he gently leads his daughters to the edge of the hole in the plane's side and pushes them softly into the air.  He then turns, takes his wife's hand in his and steps out into space.  (For people who are terrified of heights, this is not a calming scene.)

Meanwhile the missile firing pilot is telling his story to us and debating whether or not to tell his superiors that it wasn't a drone that he hit ... The airline finally figures out something is wrong with that flight -- why aren't they answering?  Why is the transponder turned off?  (Anything here sound familiar?)

But one of the men spared by his own bladder and a flight attendant are going everything they can to turn the plane and return to the terminal.  The man has experience in flying smaller planes, but this huge plane carries 325 passengers plus crew.

I only made it as far as page 238.  I couldn't take any more.  But I did read the last two pages to avoid nightmares and found a reasonably happy ending.

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