Title: The Philosopher’s Flight
Author: Tom Miller
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 13, 2018)
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy, Feminist Literature
Trigger Warnings: Sexism, Sexual Language
I received this The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller as a part of my Book of the Month club for February.
Robert Weekes always dreamed of joining the US Sigilery Corps’ Rescue and Evacuation Department. The only problem is, he would be the first male to ever attempt the feat. Determined to master empirical philosophy, a female-dominated branch of science, Weekes heads off to the all-girls Radcliffe college in Boston. When Robert arrives he learns he isn’t the only male at the school, but the only one with any raw ability for philosophy. With the help of his friends, Weekes battles sexist stereotypes to survive his Contingency year and to prove that he is worthy of (literally) flying with the best of the sigilwomen. With the Great War ramping up, the only thing that could potentially get in Robert’s way is the Trenchers, an extremist anti-philosophical group that finds empirical philosophy no different than witchcraft in the eyes of the lord.
The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller was the feminist novel every man needs to read. A less defensive, and radical, The Power (by Namoi Alderman), The Philosopher’s Flight did an incredible job of depicting the social injustice women had to endure to attempt to break into male-dominated fields. Written in the perspective of Robert Weekes, a male who wanted more than anything to fly (yes in the air like a bird) with the sigilwomen of Rescue and Evacuation, Miller created empathy through role-reversal. Something I felt Namoi attempted by including Tunde’s perspective but failed as it tended to ignite anger instead of empathy by its critics.
As The Philosopher’s Flight was the third book I have read this year regarding the Great War (aka World War II), I was thrilled to have some of the historical details mixed around to accommodate the fantasy aspect of the novel. Instead of women gaining the right to vote in 1920, women received the right to vote under Abraham Lincoln as a thank you for helping the Union win the war. Instead, suffragettes were fighting for their right practice empirical philosophy. This changed also allowed women to be elected seats in the House and Senate earlier. There also was no mention of prohibition. Although not pertinent to the storyline, one can assume that this resulted from the distraction the Zoning act provided to the female Trenchers (conservative, elderly women) that would have advocated for prohibition in our universe.
Overall, I gave The Philosopher’s Flight 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. The story was captivating and Robert was a character you wanted to cheer for. I could tell this was meant to be more for YA as the writing was not as strong as I had hoped based on the content. This could have been because I did read Little Fires Everywhere last, and Celeste Ng did a phenomenal job. However, it also had to do with the number of conversational paragraphs used. And because I still don’t understand the benefit of making the head dean of Radcliffe’s sigilry completely bonkers. I believed the Hens vs. Cocks provided enough comic relief that we did not need anymore. I would recommend this novel to teenagers of any gender. Those of a younger age (11/12) would often be okay but I advise reading the novel before as they may need to have a discussion afterward to determine if they fully grasp the concept and to determine if they can handle the language.
That kind of miracle is the most common thing in the world to my daughter, who was born down here in Matamoros in 1930, two miles from the Mexican border, raised among malcontents and renegades, women (and a few men, like myself) who were made outlaws in the United States. all of us are empirical philosophers, or sigilrists if you prefer the common term And what is empirical philosophy – what is sigilry – except a branch of science we don’t yet fully understand?
–The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller