Three Top Reasons to Read “Flying to Extremes”
Bush pilot Dominique Prinet accounts his death-defying flights through Canada’s Great White North in this new novel.
But first, a summary…
In many ways, becoming a bush pilot saved Dominique Prinet’s life mentally and emotionally – even though the job itself required him to risk his life regularly. Flying to Extremes is a collection of short stories about his most memorable adventures piloting small planes through the Yukon and wider Northwest Territories in the 1960s and 70s. His first-person accounts of these white-knuckle journeys – and the downtime in between – net a compelling snapshot of life in the most remote parts of the Great White North sixty years ago. In short, it’s about a pilot taking his planes (and passengers!) to the limit of what’s possible in order to survive. Strap in for an epic adventure!
Reason #1: It’s a first-person history of the Great White North
In this collection of short (and true) stories, Prinet takes us back in time to Northern Canada in the ’60s and ’70s, when Yellowknife connected to Edmonton via 1,500 kilometers of gravel road. It had only just become the capital of the Northwest Territories, and everyone hung out at one hotel bar on the main drag, where fights were frequent. There was one (brand new) traffic light, and, among the few stores, the Hudson Bay Company sold rifles displayed among umbrellas and brooms. Prinet takes us further north into tiny First Nations communities only accessible by plane, and also introduces us to fishers, hunters, geologists and prospectors whose location for pick up could only be identified by landmarks – and pin-pointed, at times, with the help of flares. His account is a history of Canada you didn’t know you needed, and worlds apart from the disco-era Canadian big cities we know.
Photo: Dominique Prinet
Reason #2: It’s a total page-turner
Think action: sea and snow landings, planes packed with gold, fighting forest fires, transporting trappers and their sled dogs, saving buffalo from the spread of anthrax, nosedives, sunken planes, being stranded in remote snow, many a mayday moment and more. Think terrifying conditions: snow-blanketed landscapes sans landmarks; summers spent flying nearly nonstop in relentless daylight; storms, squalls, thick heavy fog, -65° temperatures, the ever-looming risk of running out of fuel, and a place called Dead Man’s Valley. Think: Death-defying situations that even the strong-hearted among us couldn’t stomach…except when reading it from the safety and comfort of home.
Reason #3: It’s the perfect summer read
Not only compelling and informative, this book is an easy escape to a time that feels worlds away – and is peppered with photos to help complete the picture. It’s also episodic and bingeable: Each chapter is a standalone story, so you can read it in bits or chunks, as your summer schedule allows – and reading about snowscapes and ice-clad terrain is a welcome contrast to the heat of summer. There’s humour in it, too. Prinet is wry and funny when recounting his fearful feats, which makes for riveting storytelling.