on 11 June 2009
This is the third in the "Airborn" Series, succeeding Airborn and Skybreaker. This third novel has been a great anticipation in my book calendar, and one i really wanted to read, but there was something abit odd about it.
Matt Cruse, a young aspiring-to-be captain, is studying in Paris, and on his summer holiday, takes a job at the Celestial Tower- a tower built in Paris, aiming to reach space first... but is whisked away to Lionsgate city, to be invited to be part of the Canadian space race...
He has to pass a grueling set of tests before he can enter, whilst Kate, his love from the previous novels, a young girl aspiring to be a great scientist, gets an easy free pass. This is just one incident forming a crevasse in their relationship, with others being social pressure, parents and a proposal from a rich tycoon's son.
They both end up on the space voyage, and face many more adventures, following their voyage into space, and behold the discoveries they find. I shan't spoil the excitement for you... the plot twists and sudden dangers are still there!
Overall, the book follows the same style of Oppel, the characterisation is flawless once again, and there is all the same action, twists and dilemas the past two books have seen. However, this feels rather predictable, and plain compared to the other two, and seems somewhat detached.
Whilst it does refer to past incidents, which of course has shaped our characters thus far, and the reintroduction of Captain Walken, of which was in the first novel, the links aren't quite of the same exciting type. No shocking revelations and "WOWing" twists, eg Nadira was Spzirglass' daughter! It was just dilema after dilema, which you kinda guessed would come up and all our characters would survive through.
This series has so much potential, and this book falls short of the high standards previously achieved. However, we have to keep in mind that this book is targetted at children, and too much complexion could vex them; yet i think it is more suited to teens and if driven towards that category, it will have so much more scope.
The book is solid, but not exceptional, and perhaps the series will need a shocking event, a new original and refreshing storyline, and perhaps a new prominant rival/ enemy or evil person. The Babelites in this just wasn't threatening or involved enough!
Having explored the far reaches of the skies, Matt Cruse is about to fly beyond them -- into the unknown expanse of space.
Yup. Space. Kenneth Oppel's airship trilogy takes a distinctly sci-fi turn in the final volume, "Starclimber" -- it's focused on the wondrous expanses outside Earth's, and the dangers that go with its first pioneers. It's a little top-heavy with Matt's romantic woes, but Oppel does a truly brilliant job mingling sci-fi, adventure and a sense of lyrical wonder.
Matt Cruise has been working as a tug captain at the Celestial Tower, but he's offered a wildly different job: to become one of the first astralnauts on a space mission.
Unfortunately as he undergoes the grueling training, Matt is distracted -- Kate (who is heavily involved in the suffragette movement) is being pressured to make a "good match" with a rich man. And while both of them are included on the cable-climbing "Starclimber," Matt is horrified when he discovers that Kate's parents have forced her to make a choice -- get engaged or give up outer space.
The specially selected team succeeds in leaving the Earth behind, only to find that space has its own variety of dangers -- including mysterious glowing objects, monstrous space creatures, asteroids, and the threat of a bombing from the fanatical Babelites. But the worst is yet to come, when Matt finds that he must repair a delicate piece of equipment... or the entire expedition will be destroyed.
Just as Oppel's "Airborn" and "Skybreaker" asked what if airships had dominated the skies, "Starclimber" explores the idea of a more technologically advanced Victorian age where space travel is a realistic possibility. He even touches on some timeless topics, such as prejudice against women's abilities (and Kate's rebuttals) and fanaticism (the Babelites, believing it angers God to venture into space).
And despite the slow unfolding of the story, Oppel keeps it interesting with his a lovely prose style (the darting lights and haunting space "music"), and the detailed descriptions of space training and technology. About halfway through it suddenly tightens into a taut action story, with lots of space rescues and bizarre alien life forms.
And though a bunch of bickering strangers in space sounds boring, he injects little moments of comedy into the story ("There is no energy in Paris, no dynamism. An artist like myself must move on. Also, I set fire to the French president"). If there's a flaw, it's that the subplot about Matt and Kate's fragmenting relationship weighs a little too heavily during life-threatening crises.
Matt and Kate have grown up a great deal, but are still very much the same -- she's a impetuous, strong-willed and determined scientist, while he's a lovable, humble pilot who just wants the skies and Kate (although he suffers from some thorny jealousy and doubts about her). The supporting cast is a pretty fun bunch as well, particularly the prickly Miss Karr, pompous windbag Sir Hugh, and the paternal Captain Walken.
"Starclimber" takes everything that was good about Oppel's steampunky fantasy books, and launches them into orbit. A solid finale for a brilliant trilogy, and definitely a good ending for Matt and Kate.
This is the third book in an alternate reality created by world-renowned Kenneth Oppel. In this book, the airplane has not been developed but flying machines, gliders, blimps and balloons are the mode of air transportation. The first two books Airborn and Skybreaker have won almost every Canadian children's literary award. Combined they have won: Governor General's Award, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award (twice), Red Maple Award (twice), Michael L Printz Honor Book (ALA). They have won 26 awards and been nominated for another 7. The interesting thing is, this was the first book in this series to come across my desk and was read as an independent story. It stands strong on its own and left me wanting to read the first two.
This story is part of the saga of Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries, two young people in love and pursuing higher education to realize their dreams - Matt of becoming a captain on an airship and Kate of becoming a world-class scientist and researcher, especially zoology in the stratosphere. It is also the story of the race to space. The French are trying to build a tower into space, and Matt and Kate are called home to Canada, to be part of Canada's attempt. Kate is outright invited to be a scientist on the Mission. Matt must go through a grueling training regime and compete with over a hundred people hoping to be an astronaut aboard the Canadian ship Starclimber. Matt is a skilled Skysailor but can he compete with so many older and more experienced men?
The story is part science fiction, part romance, and part social commentary. Oppel does an excellent job of weaving the different elements into a cohesive tale that is compelling and addicting. You reach a point in the book where you do not want to put it down. The greatest strength of the story is the incredible characters that seem so real, and the powerful narrative technique used by Oppel that makes you feel like you are there and part of the action. The story has a great pace that picks up speed as it moves along and finishes like a runaway train dragging us along with it, racing to the end.
This is a great novel and like the others in the series will probably win numerous awards.
(First Published in Imprint 2009-03-13.)
STARCLIMBER is the sequel to Oppel's AIRBORN and SKYBREAKER. This was a fantastic science fiction book for young adults, and will follow in their path of award-winning writing.
Matt is an accomplished young man who has many incredible opportunities to prove himself as he climbs out of his childhood. Kate is a feisty young woman with her sights set on a future filled with women's liberation and scientific research.
Together, they meet their newest challenge of being the first to ride the Starclimber into space. They are headed to a world of life-threatening new discoveries about space, and new discoveries about themselves as they soar into adulthood.
With new creatures and an "elevator" into space, our main characters seek to meet their new expectations and out-of-this-world challenges.
The book was packed with nail-biting adventures that are bound to keep readers' interest. It was a fabulous story, and I would suggest it to any young man or woman who likes to read about worlds, not too unlike their own, and young people who are accomplishing what seems like the impossible.
Reviewed by: LaLeesha Haynes