Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Author: Tom Miller
Released: February 13th 2018
The Philosopher’s Flight is an interesting sort of story, and if I’m being honest I’m not sure I would have picked it up for myself had it not been a Book of the Month club option. I’m really glad I gave it a chance though – it’s been too long (a month at least) since I was able to really sink my teeth into a sci-fi/fantasy blend of a series (I say series, but I actually don’t know if Tom Miller will continue in this world – though I sincerely hope he does).
The Philosopher’s Flight is Tom Miller’s debut novel, and I can safely say that he is an author worth keeping an eye on. I didn’t know this before reading the book, but Miller has a background in medicine. The moment I read that fact everything sort of clicked for me – it explains little details and references tossed throughout the novel.
The novel is a blend of science fiction and fantasy, as I mentioned above, but it’s also very much an alternate history novel. It covers an altered Civil War and World War I, as well as many events that occur in between. If you don’t enjoy alternative fiction (a fact that I can sympathize with), then you may find yourself more annoyed than appreciative with the alterations.
I wasn’t really sure what to make of Philosopher’s Flight when I first started reading it. On the one hand I was charmed with the unique nature of the story, but on the other I was concerned that it was trying too hard. The latter concern ended up fading with time, as I got more and more absorbed into the tale being told.
Robert Weekes lives in a world full of Philosophers. But it isn’t the world that we’ve typically seen portrayed in science fiction novels – this is a world where the women are better at writing sigils, and the men are usually incompetent and lacking in power at best. There are teams of women who run rescue operations, from acting as ambulatory services to putting out fires. Women who act as healers. Women who evacuate injured soldiers during the war. Every use you can think of, and there’s probably already a team of women doing just that.
Sure, there’s been a rare male Philosopher here and there, but on the whole they’re significantly less powerful than their female counterparts. There’s a lot of religious and legal opposition to the Philosophers, and throughout the novel we’re given to believe that this has a lot to do with the gender of Philosophers. An interesting point, to say the least. And interesting food for thought.
So you’re probably wondering; if this is a world where the women are better Philosophers than men, then why is the main character a male? Robert is a strong and stubborn boy, who was raised by and around strong women who were also fliers and rescuers. Naturally, being raised by these women he never wanted to do anything more than be like them. He’s never let anybody’s negativities get in his way.
More than anything Robert wants to become a US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service member. The problem? A man has literally never joined the corps. They need the best fliers, and no man has ever compared to any of the ladies in service, and certainly never to a point where any officer would be willing to take the risk on him.
Robert’s story is all about the struggles women face – even (or perhaps especially) when they have access to a power that most men don’t. His story is about overcoming biases and expectations and barriers all in hopes of finally achieving one’s dreams. The moral behind everything is really beautiful, and Miller isn’t afraid to show the ugly truth for what it is.
I can’t wait to see what Miller comes out with next. I hope it’s a sequel to The Philosopher’s Flight, though it did end in such a way where I would be okay with it being a standalone novel. If he doesn’t continue Robert’s story, I hope he at least continues to write inside the delightful world he’s designed.