Part thriller, part romance, part coming-of-age fantasy, The Philosopher’s Flight by debut novelist Tom Miller has already set a high bar for any book vying to be the most entertaining novel of 2018.
In this alternate history, the United States has just entered World War I, and the science behind unaided human flight, known as empirical philosophy, is as controversial as ever. Much of that fuss comes from the fact that, with rare exceptions, only women can fly. Anti-philosophy activists, known as Trenchers, are gaining traction, and extremists on both sides have participated in riots, attacks and even assassinations.
Into this whirlwind leaps Robert Weekes, an 18-year-old Montanan who lives with his mother, the legendary Major Emmeline Weekes, philosopher, war hero and vigilante. Robert, one of the few men capable of flight, dreams of following in his mother’s footsteps and joining the U.S. Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service, an elite, women-only group of philosophers who swoop onto battlefields under heavy fire to fly the dead and wounded to safety.
When a daring rescue after a deadly Trencher attack makes him a minor hero, Robert wins a scholarship to Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school, to study empirical philosophy. After a chilly welcome, Robert pushes his flying to new—and reckless—levels to win the respect of the Radcliffe women. He improves so rapidly that his absurd dream of Rescue and Evac is within grasp, especially after a sparkling performance at the General’s Cup, the annual flying competition showcasing the best of the college philosophers.
His future becomes less certain when he meets and falls for Danielle Hardin, a bitter war veteran disillusioned by her service at Gallipoli. When the outspoken philosopher takes on the Trenchers, she and Robert draw the attention of a fanatical anti-philosophy group, with deadly consequences.
The wild and soaring The Philosopher’s Flight is as fun a read as you’ll come across. Miller appears to have left room for more at the story’s end; let’s hope this is the start of a new series.