Prelude to a Super Airplane by Brian Spaeth

Brian Spaeth has possibly written the snarkiest book ever written. Normally I don’t like much snark because it seems to be unserious for fear of being sincere, but Prelude to a Super Airplane is actually laugh-out-loud funny. Another thing I don’t like is the phrase LOL because it’s so overused, but I really did LOL at this book, and it takes a lot to make that happen.

In a sense Brian Spaeth has tried to write the worst novel ever written. He probably won’t like that description, but PTSA is a “bad” novel in the same way that Spinal Tap is a “bad” heavy metal band.  It reminds me of a story someone told me who went to see “Spinal Tap” in the theater. When filing out after the movie was over, someone in the audience said to his friend, “Dude, that band sucked.” I have no idea what it would be like to see “Spinal Tap” thinking it was a real band, much like I couldn’t imagine reading this novel and thinking it should follow the normal rules of fiction. Prelude to a Super Airplane is the “Spinal Tap” of novels – something that is intentionally, ridiculously bad, but also intensely funny.

Even the title is wrong: Prelude to a Super Airplane makes no sense. “Ode,” maybe, but “Prelude”? To give a sense of how this book has no relation to reality, this is a picture of what the super airplane is supposed to look like. Proportions are exact:

The writing of the novel itself follows this type of logic. It skips around between the “novel” to the writer talking about writing the book itself, or meeting a significant other on an “airplane ride,” and then back to the novel again. If anything, the book skips around to too many characters – it follows no real logic about story arcs. It sounds like a mess, but it’s actually kind of revolutionary and gives the finger to traditional forms of fiction writing. It’s a novel for the Twitter age, in which people jot down anything and everything that comes into their head.

This wouldn’t work if the book wasn’t also funny, and it is. Here is a taste:

My brother’s name is Tim, and growing up, Tim had two loves – airplanes and Star Treck. How and if these two loves connect to one another, I’ll never know, but his love of them was equal.

A third love was pencil sketching, a skill in which Tim had singularly unique talent, yet no desire to pursue beyond the recreational level, which I’ve always thought was a shame.

When Tim learned he would never be able to command his own fictional starship, he turned his career attentions to his other love, airplanes.

This is skipping ahead a bit, but today, Tim is a Colonel in the Airplane Riding Marshall Taskforce Agency, or ARMTA, where he makes both his peers and his underlings refer to him as “Colonel T”.

(ARMTA is an important part of how our country’s airplane rides run safely. I read one study that said without ARMTA, airplane rides would be +/-4000% more at risk of crashes, resulting in a vastly increased number of fiery, crashy, airplaney fireballs falling to the Earth. These fireballs would be full of dead airplane riders, who died from being on fire.)

There’s an intensely serious review of this novel, but knowing how this book is written, you can’t be certain that the review is also an elaborate gag – just like the website setup for the fake action film director who writes the book’s introduction. The review says,

Prelude to a Super Airplane, the debut novel by actor/screenwriter/producer Brian Spaeth, seems determined to destroy the novel as an art form. This is an admirable, lofty sentiment, one that calls to mind a select group of writers whose masterpieces drastically changed the literary landscape for generations: Swift, Flaubert, Joyce, Pynchon, David Foster Wallace. The trouble with Mr. Spaeth is that I’m not at all sure about his knowledge of his literary predecessors or his intentions in thoroughly reinventing their models.

The fact that you can’t know if that review is real is part of Super Airplane’s genius. It’s meta on meth.  I regret that “worst novel” quip above, because this novel does achieve a lot.  It rewrites the traditional fictional form and it makes you laugh.   That makes it an extremely entertaining read.  By the end of the novel, you’re left thinking that Brian Spaeth might just be onto something.

Read the first 55 pages at SuperAirplane.com.

Go to Brian Spaeth’s also-amusing blog.

Also on Twitter – where I first found him and the book. I think he’s followed by a celebrity, but I can’t remember which one.

  • Sounds a lot like Garth Marenghi’s “DARK PLACE”.