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The Survivor

Novel by James Herbert (England) 1976.

Far better than the disappointing film, The Survivor was something different for James Herbert to attempt after two well-received and commercially successful gore novels, and he pulled it off, opening for himself a far wider scope for future work. A packed jumbo jet explodes in mid air and crashes down onto a field in Eton. Everybody on board is dead, except one man: David Keller, the co-pilot, who walks out of the twisted wreckage without so much as a scratch. The Board of Trade Accidents Investigation Branch are called in to work out exactly what happened, but Keller fells compelled to find out for himself.

The book is plotted superbly; both The Rats and The Fog were simple stories that just needed to progress to a suitable climax, but the complexities of The Survivor called for a lot more intricate crafting. And if the principal characters are maybe less well defined than those in either of its predecessors, it's no great loss as the book's great strength lies in the suspense, which is handled adroitly. Avoid the film version by David Hemmings (1981), starring Jenny Agutter and Robert Powell, but don't avoid the book.


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