Ben Brown’s Flying Machine by Michael Thorp
Publisher: Free House Studios Ltd.
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (130 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe
When the first manned spacecraft to Mars disappears and its crew explorer vehicle crashes onto the Brown’s wheat farm, what Ben discovers leads him on an adventure that he could never have imagined. He builds a flying machine and flies off to a planet in another universe where he finds himself fighting free its enslaved people, eighteen foot giants, and then to save his own planet. Ultimately, it’s a story about faith and a young man’s quest for love and redemption for his father’s untimely death.
There are thousands of stars in the sky than we can see with the naked eye, but we only know the secrets of a few of them.
This was a highly detail-oriented story. I visualized what was going on in every scene without ever consciously thinking about what specific room or person might look like because they were sketched out so well. What made it even more interesting is that the author used almost every sense in order to present his universe to the readers. I didn’t only see what was happening, I felt like I could smell, hear and feel it as well.
With that being said, too much time was spent describing these moments for a novella of this size. This was especially true during the first chapter as it was full of technical descriptions that took a while to understand. There would have been plenty of room to take these pauses in something full-length, but it slows down the plot too much in shorter works. As intrigued as I was by the premise, I had a hard time getting into Ben’s adventures at first because I was so distracted by everything else that was going on.
This tale had some thought-provoking things to say about why people believe harmful stuff and what happens when you encourage them to approach their beliefs from other perspectives. I wasn’t expecting to encounter such philosophical questions in a young adult novel, but the narrator made me think about other ways to approach such a potentially sensitive topic. It was one of my favorite things about Ben’s adventures.
Ben is friendly, courteous, loving, and extremely intelligent. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on a character’s best side, but it isn’t easy to identify with a protagonist who doesn’t appear to have any real flaws. Even someone as goodnatured as Ben struggles with something. I would have been quite interested to discover what it is that he finds challenging in life.
The relationship between Ben and his mom made me smile. It was nice to see such a tight bond between two family members who have such wildly different personalities and interests. They not only love each other, they genuinely seem to like one another as well. That’s not something I see regularly in the young adult genre, so it was refreshing to come across it here.
I chose the 12+ age recommendation due to violent content. It may be appropriate for some readers who are slightly younger, but I’d strongly suggest pre-screening this book to anyone who is thinking about doing this.
Ben Brown’s Flying Machine is a good choice for anyone who is fascinated by space exploration.