Book Review: No Highway – by Nevil Shute

After reading a few books that I did not enjoy very much for a variety of reasons, I picked up No Highway by Nevil Shute because I knew, having read the author before, that he is a good story teller and will present a solidly crafted novel. I read Trustee from the Toolroom in 2014 and A Town Like Alice in 2015. These books were all recommended by my Australian friend (and frequent commenter in this blog), Ray Cullen. Thanks Ray!

In No Highway, the narrator is Dr. Scott, a young manager in the government agency responsible for aircraft safety in the U.K. in the 1950s. But the hero is Mr. Honey, an awkward, introverted, but brilliant engineer who does advanced work in fatigue studies in metallurgy.  He discovers an esoteric problem with the tail structure of the Reindeer, the U.K.’s most modern passenger airplane of the time that was just put into cross-Atlantic service. But being somewhat goofy and off-mainstream, many people don’t believe Honey. Only through drastic action that jeopardizes his career does he get the attention of the aerospace establishment. All hinges on the results of his experiments and the recovery of crash data from a remote site in the Canadian Labrador forests.

I can’t figure out why the book is called No Highway, as it does, at least to me, not relate to the story at all. It is, however, a well-crafted novel just like I would have expected from Nevil Shute. He did not let me down. While I enjoyed reading it, I can see it may be somewhat dry to a person not interested in engineering, and with the engineering subject matter being now 70 years outdated, the book is a bit awkward today. For instance, much of the plot depends on the fact that when you crossed the Atlantic in 1950 and went into the Canadian hinterland, you were completely out of reach. The only intercontinental communications in those days was a “cable” which is basically a telegram. It was expensive, difficult to send and receive, and it took a lot of time. We now live in a world with instant communications all over the globe, and we can’t even conceive of a situation where a major scientist is doing field work in the Canadian north in the woods where he would be completely, utterly out of reach. Today, we’d send texts and emails through satellite phones charged by solar panels – no problem at all.

This is not Nevil Shute’s problem, but Amazon’s. This book is the worst Kindle book with the classic automatic conversion errors I have ever read. Here is an example:

So had Mr Honey been, but I would not tell him that I ad raid, Tm very sorry about the Reindeer, Mr Prendergast I’m afraid this is bound to mean that all those aircraft will be grounded now at seven hundred and twenty hours.1 He said genially, ‘Oh well, worse things happen at sea. I expect we shall get over it, one way or another.’
— Nevil Shute. No Highway (Kindle Locations 5118-5121). Kindle Edition.

I highlighted the offending sections in red for you. The problem is that the entire book has these errors. There are THOUSANDS of them. Pretty much every page is messed up. I “only” paid $0.99 for this book, which is not a lot, but why doesn’t Amazon have a process in place where readers can provide edits back that a human could then use to fix the books? I am a stickler with that – Amazon should require that at least one editor reads every book and fixes it before it is going to be sold!


The editing issues are Amazon’s problem, so I won’t hold that against the book in my rating. Overall, I give it a solid two stars.

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