Ghost Flight, by Bear Grylls

I’ve always got time for Bear. Except for his latest TV show. What a pile of poop that is. To be fair, his heart’s not really in it… and neither is he for that matter. It reminds me of an interview I once did with Michael Caine regarding him starring in Jaws 4. I asked had he seen the movie? He said “no, but I have seen the house it paid for and it’s fantastic!” For the record, I’ve never done an interview with Michael Caine, but I like that quote.

Getting paid for reality survival based TV shows is probably not Bear’s true passion, but it seems that maybe writing is becoming an interest. The editor flicked his latest book to me as I’d reviewed his previous kids books.

First up, this is no book for children. Don’t go be givin’ this one to junior and expect him to sleep through the night anymore. It would be fair to say that Bear has seen how much money the likes of Lee Child, Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy have made using a ‘one man fighting machine’ as a protagonist.

Jack Reacher, Jack Ryan and Jason Bourne may be a distant relative, or possibly they went to primary school or even played some sport together with Bear’s new character. Despite the similar formula, Will Jaeger is definitely worthy of their class of action hero.

A bit of ‘blurb’ background: Will Jaeger is an ex soldier with a gritty past. His family was murdered and now he is compelled to take on one more mission. You get the idea, right? Again, formulaic, but there is some depth to this writing as well, so don’t despair. “Some depth”. What got me intrigued was the Nazi element. Being a keen historian who learnt all his World War Two history from playing computer games, reading in the blurb that there was Nazi conspiracies, I was suitably motivated to read it and also somewhat surprised, having read Bear’s previous kids books.

It would also be fair to say that Bear still needs a little refinement on his writing style. It feels a bit like too many ‘flavour of the month’ elements have been entered into the book. These unnecessarily retract from the action going on in each scene. Scenes that have enough action on their own without the need to pander to the masses. For example… the Maori warrior character.

It seems Bear has taken a little bit of inspiration from Orson Scott Card by introducing a horribly inaccurate and grossly stereotypical Maori warrior character. Mazer Rackam in Ender’s game, a character butchered by Ben Kingsely in the movie when Tem Morrison was born to play the role. I don’t know who to be more upset at there, the writer for inventing such an inaccurate Maori or the director for not casting Tem. Maybe I’m madder at Tem’s agent for dropping the ball on that one.

First of all there is no Z in the Maori language, same goes for V…Takavesi the character in Bear’s book name sounds more Fijian and the fact that he has his hair “worn in braids the traditional Maori way” just reeks of poor research. In any case, ignore the token ‘lets use a Maori for a warrior in my book’ part and read on. It’s been done before and only Herman Melville got close in Moby Dick… and barely at that.

Now for the “shut up and talk about the book” part. The above rant will only be applicable to New Zealand readers who, like me, have a bit more respect for our native people, so get past the first few chapters and the real meat of the book will reveal itself. Unlike the other authors mentioned in this review, you can be pretty sure that Bear has actually experience some of these things. Sure, maybe not the actual things, but he has fired weapons, been behind enemy lines, he was actually in the S.A.S. Secret forces and missions were a real part of his life. When something gets blown up or the protagonist is under heavy weapon fire, Bear tells it like it is.

Sure, he may not have researched some elements of the book, i.e Maoridom, but the lack of research in that aspect is definitely made up for by his personal experience in combat and the armed forces.

I’m hoping Bear has found his nichè with this genrè, he’s tried them all before, so maybe he will settle on this one.

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TITLE: Ghost Flight
AUTHOR(S): Bear Grylls
PUBLISHER: Hachette
RRP: $34.99
ISBN: 9781409156826

Drew Thompson Drew operates a successful hobby farm for pampered cattle in rural South Auckland. He once dabbled in education, where he discovered any book was a good book. As with most ex-teachers, he realised he was better off spending his time and patience on his own awesome children.

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