Therefore, go forth, companion: when you find
No highway more, no track, all being blind
The way to go shall glimmer in the mind.
Though you have conquered Earth and charted Sea
And planned the courses of all Stars that be, Adventure on,
more wonders are in Thee.
Adventure on, for from the littlest clue
Has come whatever worth man ever knew;
The next to lighten all men may be you….
— John Masefield
Shute must be removed from the dusty category of oddish optimistic English writers and reclassified among the chroniclers of all things mechanical, experimental, technical and the men who invent them, perfect them, and test them. Again and again Nevil Shute describes ugly, unpopular, classless, technical men who nonetheless make wonderful things that work. In a word: engineers. Developers. Hackers. Nerds. Shutists, all. A century of nerds, bricoleurs and tinkerers and hobbyists invented buggy applications, tracked each other’s patents, and played with each other’s toys, long before we came along.
Honey is exemplary. A scientist who devises noisy contraptions tearing themselves to bits in order to study stress. A theorist who hasn’t heard of hot water boilers or mops.
Such an insignificant little man is Honey that it is almost inconceivable that he should be right about big important matters – like when planes are likely to crash. It is likewise inconceivable that such a seriously ugly man in a bad suit can make himself loved by a beautiful actress and a beautiful stewardess in the same book. But he does.