Hornet's Sting, Derek Robinson

Hornet's Sting, Derek Robinson

This is the second volume in the author's RFC Quartet, a series of novels set in the RFC and the early years of the RAF. This entry in the series covers the events of 1917, a time that saw the RFC suffer crushingly heavy losses and poorly trained pilots thrown into the fight. In the background the war is going nowhere - the Russian revolution threatens the Allied cause and on the ground Passchendaele is exacting its terrible cost.

Hornet's Sting has a different feel to the first book in the quartet (War Story). There we largely followed the development of one particular young officer. Here the squadron is the focus, and most characters come and go with the same brutal speed as they did in the actual war. Don't expect a character to survive just because they appear to have an interesting plotline, even to reach the end of a sub-plot. Reality wasn't that neat, and neither is Robinson.

The result is a curious (but successful) combination of two styles - first is the ongoing series of largely unrelated almost comic incidents set around daily life on the squadron and the efforts made to counter the endless stress and second is the grim reality of the war and its ever-increasing toll of pilots. As with the first book in the series this is a splendid novel, well written, compelling, entertaining but also brutal and hard hitting. The result is a very convincing picture of life on an RFC squadron during one of the most costly periods of the Great War. 

Author: Derek Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 352
Publisher: Maclehose Press
Year: 1999

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