book cover of The Fifth Freedom
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The Fifth Freedom

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Oh, my goodness! The same variety of stilted language, neologisms, cardboard characters, improbable plot elements, and misspellings that made "Eye of Argon" famous just makes this mess unreadable. The back cover blurb makes it seem interesting, if head-scratchingly odd: a brave hero pilot smuggling a C-130 into Iran... (what, why?). The what and why is never plausibly explained.. as near as I can tell, the Iranians need a (functional?) Hercules delivered to be a parts donor to keep the rest of their fleet in the air (what?), and are willing to pay big bucks to a doublecrossing arms broker to hire our hapless, brainless, and conscienceless antihero to fly it in. (I assume technology transfer rules prevent them from just buying spare parts, or shipping in a junker to cannibalize. I don't understand why they can't strip hangar queens out of their own fleet). In the first chapter, our pilot, on instrument approach in heavy turbulence in a light plane with a cabin fuel leak, busies himself, not with flying the approach, but with unscrewing indicator lights to prevent sparks from igniting the fuel fumes (!).. luckily the plane does not explode until the engines are throttled back and the generators drop offline, and our pilot has made his escape (without turning off the electrical master switch?).. The plot rapidly goes downhill from there.. a muddle of subplots involving a hotpants executive secretary (Lisa Wendell-Holmes.. possibly granddaughter of Oliver? Do you suppose?), a blackmailing prostitute and her brother Zwicky (!), and a boring and confusing assortment of conmen, gunsels, and thugs.. I would assume that Mr. Smith wrote this at age 13, after overdosing on Ian Fleming. It only merits one star for the minor amusement of reading one random page in 50.. sort of a do-it-yourself choose-your-own-plot. If you intend to read every page.. reduce the rating to zero, and good luck.

Genre: Thriller

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