Zimberoff’s debut drama is the story of a veteran combat fighter pilot’s life in the U.S. Navy, both on and off an aircraft carrier.
Cmdr. Eric “Spyder” Greene meets young aviators Lt. Steve “Rolls” Royce and Lt. Junior Grade Grace “Drone” Miller at a naval officers’ club. Spyder, a Top Gun graduate, tells the others about his career, beginning with his arrival at the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego. The occasionally insolent senior officer seems to prefer a time when women weren’t on carriers, much to Drone’s chagrin; his tales include downtime with strippers or prostitutes. But Spyder also tells of the camaraderie among fellow pilots before ultimately returning to the story that apparently started the conversation: the tragic loss of several of his squadron mates. The author, a Top Gun graduate like his protagonist, relays his expertise through intelligent, perceptive narration. Typically, readers can use context to understand the unfamiliar jargon—an “OK 3-wire,” for instance, is a good landing on the carrier. Zimberoff, however, doesn’t immediately spell out most acronyms, of which there are many; an accompanying glossary is definitely helpful, but readers will either have to peruse it prior to the main text or repeatedly flip to the end while reading. Obnoxious Spyder is a fascinating character; his unfiltered statements, especially regarding women, cause Drone to at one point leave and miss a sizable part of his story. But good humor keeps him from becoming wholly unlikable: He acknowledges the debauchery of Wog Day, an initiation for sailors (it entails a large amount of rancid liquids), and he amusingly refers to some women as “femists” before Drone corrects him. Spyder devotes a lot of time to the pilots’ recreations—including a stop in Australia, where he spent a few days and nights with a girl he met in a bar—but he also delves into intense flight experiences: e.g., a dogfight with Soviet jets near Vietnam and a downed jet in the carrier’s landing area that prevented airborne planes from landing despite their being disturbingly low on fuel. Overall, Spyder’s distinctive accounts resemble a short story collection more than a standard novel, but that makes it no less entertaining.
An insightful, sometimes witty look at the life of a seasoned Navy pilot.