The Feather Men
“Nobody heard their screaming as they fell, for the carousels and the brass bands, the loudspeakers and sideshow criers produced a cacophony of sound that would have drowned out the knell of doom. And nobody saw the lace bonnet of young Anna, who clung by herself to the rearmost seat, glide and dip away like a falling kite.”
The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes recently made its way off the written pages of his book and onto the silver screen. Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro make up the forefront of the movies cast. After seeing the movie, I decided to check out the book even though it failed to meet my expectations. You can check out my post on Setting Expectations to see why.
Now, I like a book which comes out swinging. I like a book which grabs you in the gut and never lets up. The Feather Men did just that! It starts out with Danny’s family dying in a grewsome carnival ride and never stops. The book fulfilled all my expectations! The tale is dark, gritty, disturbing, and gratifying all at the same time. The main elements I loved about the book are the same elements I felt the movie lacked. After reading the book, I did go back and watch the movie again. Since my expectations where now set correctly I did enjoy the movie more the second time around. And watching Jason Statham and Clive Owen go head to head is quite entertaining.
Simplicity: My main complaint about the movie was that it identified itself as an action flick and turned out to be a spy thriller. You have to watch those two types of movies with different mindsets. You have to pay much closer attention to a spy thriller than you do an action flick. The book found beauty in simplicity. There were four main groups: the Killers, the Feather Men, Spike, and the targeted SAS men. No goons, no spooks, no government interaction trying to force Danny to do what he didn’t want to do. This story did not have layers and layers of intrigue. A group of men, The Clinic, are hired to avenge the death of a Sheikh’s sons. They try to do their job while Spike tries to stop them. Simple. Danny never once felt like he should stop killing people. It was his job. Cold? Yes. Realistic? Yes. He did find love with Anne, but only wants to get out of the Killer for Hire business when she is diagnosed with HIV. So Fiennes keeps the story as simple as he can and it carries a greater weight of truth in that simplicity.
Characters: The main reason I loved the book over the movie was the richness of the characters. First, the military officers murdered for killing the Sheikh’s sons are good men. Fiennes brilliantly gives you no one to hate in this book. Second, Danny becomes a human by loving Anne. You want him to stop killing and go be a good person. Last, Spike is trying his best to keep the soldiers alive and track down the killers. I really hated how the movie made the SAS officers look like less than honorable men. In the book, Fiennes lets you get to know the soldiers, love and admire them, and then kills them off. It is just amazing. You want to scream at them, “Run away!”, “Do something different!”, and “Don’t go there!” . They are courageous SAS officers protecting people and serving their country, yet they are still being hunted down. This is the true beauty of the book. Fiennes’ characters are not people you hate.
If you enjoy modern historical fiction, have a strong stomach, or enjoy military type literature, I strongly suggest this book. It’s fast paced, exciting, thrilling, cold, difficult, and beautiful all at the same time. After you read the book…go watch the movie…