The Philosopher's Flight

A Novel
Narrated by: Gibson Frazier
Series: The Philosophers, Book 1
Length: 13 hrs and 37 mins
4 out of 5 stars (449 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A thrilling debut from ER doctor turned novelist Tom Miller, The Philosopher's Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World War I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art. "Like his characters, Tom Miller casts a spell." (Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club and The Last Bookaneer

Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy - an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service - a team of flying medics - Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals. 

When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women's school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women. 

Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. However, Danielle's activism and Robert's recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical antiphilosophical group that Robert's mother fought years before. With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert's place among the next generation of empirical philosophers - and for philosophy's very survival against the men who would destroy it. 

In the tradition of Lev Grossman and Deborah Harkness, Tom Miller writes with unrivaled imagination, ambition, and humor. The Philosopher's Flight is both a fantastical reimagining of American history and a beautifully composed coming-of-age tale for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. 

©2018 Tom Miller (P)2018 Simon & Schuster, Inc.
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant multi layered story

I love this book and it’s “universe” hopefully the author brings us more. This is another book for my great stories category, books I find that masterfully create a world that sucks the reader in. The flipping of gender roles and other social mirroring adds a second layer to the book. It’s a great gender exploration without agenda or malice. Including a military where women are in charge of the intellectual side and men are just for heavy lifting. So read this wonderful strange feminist steampunk tale written by a man and you won’t be disappointed.

70 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

You’ll need the book and the audio.

Overall an enjoyable and entertaining listen.

I would warn readers that they may want to invest in both the audio and hard copy versions. At the start of each chapter he quotes “sources,” but this can be confused as being part of the story in the Audible version. At the end of the book, his Appendix includes descriptions of glyphs that are presumably drawn in the book, but cannot be easily pictured by the listener.

The storyline was coherent but the relationships with the characters were lacking in depth. Robert is close to his mother, yet he is willing to disregard her toward the end. We discover he was closer to a sister who raised him, but he doesn’t consult her much. He loves Dar, however, he disregards her preferences.

Most of the final chapter with the dance could have been eliminated. It felt like the author didn’t know how to end the story and settled for a rambling Harry Potterish solution that offered nothing to the story.

6 people found this helpful

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Can't get into it

I gave this one a decent try, but it's just not interesting. Narrator is ok, but story is too far out.

4 people found this helpful

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  • AB
  • 05-28-18

Fun and original

The themes are not new, but the premise is so original and charming. An entertaining book that is well-written with a very good narrator. I look forward to the next in the series.

34 people found this helpful

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Unique and engaging read!

Loved The Philosopher's Flight and want to hear more! Very unique story full of well rounded characters. Character voices by narrator are sometimes off, but mostly enjoyable to listen to.

21 people found this helpful

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Interesting story & themes but quite violent

Very interesting but too much violence for me. Wish audible and amazon had violence ratings so I could be forewarned. I' a bit on the sensitive side. Very interesting way to look at gender discrimination by painting a story with males being discriminated against.

2 people found this helpful

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Vapid and trite with the sophistication of a 12 year old.

Narration was among the worst I’ve eve heard. Can’t believe I wasted my time on this one.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Decent book, annoying performance

So...this might just be a pet peeve of mine, but the narrator is decent EXCEPT when he voices female characters. He uses this awful falsetto and overdone emotionality that undercuts the characters. The characters are ok, not great, which makes it worse, but this went from a heh, fun read to...I never don’t finish a novel but is it worth the falsetto??? I did finish it, but overall meh

1 person found this helpful

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Magical and thought provoking...

Loved it! A dystopian, steam punk, alternate history, fantasy. The best of all worlds. Good premise with interesting characters and a good amount of action with character and world building. Will definitely be getting the sequel! Highly recommend!

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

Odd, slow SJW drama, no philosophy or fantasy

The fact that Simon & Schuster published this novel really says a lot about the state of publishing and about how political considerations weigh in. This book is written by a medical doctor, and it shows. Violence and injuries are described in morbid detail which is why some other reviewers have said that the story was too violent for them. I found it off-putting, and hearing clinical detail such as "punctured carotid artery" pulled me out of the story, but that was the least of my issues with this novel.

The Philosopher's Flight is marketed as "half science, half magic, all fantastic!" but there's nothing scientific, nor is there any philosophy. The author uses that word to refer to the magical abilities in his story. I don't know why he didn't simply make up a word. Putting "philosophy" in the title makes the reader expect a bit of Kant or Jung or stoicism, or at least some intellectualizing on the meaning of life. Because, ya know, that's the meaning of the word philosophy. But there's none here. Zilch. This story is an alternative history in WWI-era USA where women 20 years ago discovered magic (which the author calls "empirical philosophy") that enables them to carve clouds, heal wounds, control wind and fly around. Men aren't as good at this magic, so they're discriminated against and the military is comprised mostly of women. The protagonist is a boy from rural Montana who wants to follow in his mother's footsteps and be in the Core (military), but he faces obstacles due to his gender.

The problem with this premise, and with all similar premises where women are suddenly in control, is that women's abilities and physical attributes (smaller size, weakness, etc.) aren't the only reasons why we aren't at the top of society and military combat. It's much more complex than that. Even if women discovered a new "science" or "magic" that we're better at performing, men would control it in the near-term, certainly within a few decades like in this story. The male-run government and military would hire the best women and pay us highly for our skills, but we wouldn't suddenly be in charge of them. Society wouldn't transform overnight after men have historically controlled financial, political, military and social institutions. Plus, women still have to endure menstruation, giving birth, nursing and raising children. The ways in which testosterone and estrogen impact men and women cause us to have different traits that shape not only our bodies but also our experiences and our interests. I know this isn't popular to say, but even if women were suddenly better fighters than men, most of us aren't going to be drawn to physical combat because our higher levels of estrogen influence us towards nurturing rather than fighting. Sure, *some* women and men do not follow those tendencies. But unless our hormones and physiology changed dramatically, it's hard to imagine society being reversed as it is in this novel.

I've said all that to say this novel requires a tremendous suspension of disbelief. I think the author would've been better served by writing a sci-fi or cyberpunk novel with a world where the characters' physical bodies fit the story he wants to tell, i.e., where women no longer bear children and nurse and/ or society has always been matriarchal. Trying to set this story in 20th Century USA just feels like a non sequitur. A few decades of women doing "philosophy" to fly through the air aren't sufficient to support the outlandish lines that females deliver to our male protagonist, e.g., "before I met you, I never believed a man could do what you can do." Give me a break,

The book is well-written insofar as the dialogue is fine, the sentence structure is varied and the vocabulary is educated. Unfortunately, there's no compelling narrative, no reason to keep turning the pages or listening to the audio. The concept was interesting, but the author didn't take it anywhere. This is one of those books where the reader witnesses a series of events occurring, often described in excruciating detail, but doesn't really care.

There is 'romance' and some of the cringiest sex I've ever read, juxtaposed with the characters flying around like Harry Potter playing quidditch but described in excruciating detail, along with social justice-esque threads about men and minorities being discriminated against, and racial language and profanity including f-bombs. You can see why this book hasn't found an audience. I don't know who it's written for. To me, the romance/ sex was really the worst part. It's unclear to me why the editor at the publisher wouldn't have suggested changes or deleted these sections. Perhaps they're intended to give the reader secondhand embarrassment and feel like we're hearing an autistic child describe his sexual encounters. Here's a quote: "I took Danielle's buttocks in my hands and commenced rubbing. I tried gently at first and then with more vigor." The scene unfolds with the lover educating him on how to pleasure her in clinical terms. At that point, the author had completely lost my interest and I felt like I was enduring torture more than being entertained or hearing a story, so I cranked up the speed just to finish this novel.

I will not read further books in this series, nor would I recommend it. However, I'd be willing to try other books by Tom Miller because I think he could develop as an author. He obviously has a lively imagination. He could really benefit from studying story beats and ways to build tension. A protagonist should have desires, challenges, conflict and a clear direction towards a goal. The reader needs to feel a sense of progress. An author should always ask himself/ herself, what is the protagonist trying to do? Why? What are the stakes? What will happen if he doesn't achieve his goal? A story can be character-driven rather than plot driven, but both types of stories require conflict and progression.

3 people found this helpful