Tom Miller’s debut novel, “The Philosopher’s Flight,” introduces us to Robert Weekes, a young man determined to overcome the limits inherent in being male in order to join an elite squad of women devoted to rescue and evacuation. He hopes to be of service during the War to End All Wars. To make the cut, he has to get better at flying.
“The Philosopher’s Flight” is a rollicking alternate history novel featuring empirical philosophers who use sigillary to accomplish various wonders. The best of these philosophers are all women, and Weekes must overcome his own doubt and long-standing prejudice to pursue his dreams. As if that weren’t enough, a group violently opposed to empirical philosophy has ratcheted up its efforts to end sigillary — by any means necessary.
Despite its magical trappings and alternate history setting, “The Philosopher’s Flight” is a straightforward coming-of-age adventure novel. Weekes leaves his family to attend school across the country, finds loyal friends, wrestles with intractable enemies, earns the grudging respect of the skeptical, and finds love. He’s an engaging narrator surrounded by memorable characters, and Miller keeps the story moving briskly. The author has a knack for allowing his protagonist to wrestle with moral quandaries, even as the action is at its peak, without losing any of the energy of the moment.
“The Philosopher’s Flight” should soar onto many a to-read list, offering as it does a solid and fun story underpinned by just enough philosophical substance to give the novel a bit of heft without endangering its highflying action.
l What: Tom Miller reads from “The Philosopher’s Flight”
l When: 7 p.m. Thursday
l Where: Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City
l Cost: Free