When the call "Mayday" is used, there is the supposition that anyone hearing it will take immediate action to help those in need. In this book, due to certain evil considerations, a Mayday call is ignored, leading to a fantastic story involving an airline disaster. The book was originally written in 1979, and was not only a best-seller, but it was made into a hit TV movie. Nelson Demille had given his friend Tom Block help in writing that original book and in the late 1990's they co-authored this newer version of Mayday. The reason for the rewrite is that in 1979 the electronic world of today did not exist. Planes did not fly as fast or as high as today. Cell phones and the internet did not exist and the political world was different. When an experimental Navy missile accidentally strikes a passenger plane flying at 60,000 feet, blowing a hole in the jumbo jet, some passengers are swept out the gaping hole, but the crew and the rest of the passengers are incapacitated as the result of the loss of cabin pressure. Only a few survive intact, due to their being in pressure stabilized areas, such as restrooms. Since the pilot and co-pilots are unable to fly the plane, the responsibility to land the crippled plane full of brain-dead passengers falls on John Berry, an amateur pilot who happened to be in a restroom at the time of the strike. Assisting him is Sharon, a flight attendant who was in the service elevator and is not impaired. Their only hope of being able to land depends on getting "talked down" by an experienced pilot, but they find their calls for help ignored by the only people who can save them. If they landed safely, the government would have to admit the tragic mistake and the insurance company would incur billions of dollars in costs to sustain hundreds of brain-dead passengers for the rest of their lives. As the plane descends, the passengers whose brains were affected by the decompression begin to regain consciousness, but their behavior is irrational and often violent, giving John and Sharon adversaries in the air as well as on the ground.
DeMille and Block have written a terrifyingly realistic drama that conjures up another possible danger we could encounter when we "fly the friendly skies". Thomas Block, a pilot and aviation writer, gives the technical aspects of Mayday convincing authenticity while Nelson DeMille delivers a gripping, suspenseful story with meticulously crafted characters. The intensity of Scott Brick's presentation style enhances the overall effect of the book, adding to the sense of urgency for characters who are in turn optimistic and hopeless.
While it is shocking to consider that hundreds of lives could be sacrificed by corrupt officials who collude to avoid taking responsibility in order to save reputations and money, Mayday is an excellent story that is a sure-fire winner for all but the most paranoid of fliers. Highly recommended.
Mayday by Nelson DeMille and Thomas Block
Read by Scott Brick
Hachette Audio, unabridged: 13.25 hours on 11 CDs