In the latest episode of Kenneth Oppel’s Victorian steampunk fantasy, young pilot-in-training Matt Cruse and scientific wunderkind Kate DeVries go back up, up, up into the wild blue yonder, only this time they continue on—into the black maw of space. Since their last adventure in mid-air, Matt has been attending the Airship Academy to get his pilot’s license, while Kate has been busy presenting and promoting her zoological discoveries: the cloud cat and the electrifying aerozoanian. But when they are offered the chance to be members of the crew of the Starclimber, the very first vessel to go into outer space, they drop everything to be a part of the historic event. The project is plagued with problems from the beginning, including terrorist attacks by the Babelites, an underground group that believes Man shouldn’t tread on God’s doorstep, mechanical failure on an astronomical scale once they are aloft, and bizarre alien lifeforms that threaten to destroy their fragile ship. Still, cool-headed Matt has proven he can handle any situation, as long as he is confident of Kate’s love. But when Kate announces that she is to be married to another as soon as they land, Matt is plunged into a depression deeper than the blackest Black Hole. Can Matt and Kate put aside their romantic tensions to save the Starclimber and their fellow space travelers? Or will the ship fall from the sky on her maiden voyage like an astral Titanic, dashing her crews’ hopes and lives and the young lovers’ broken hearts onto the unforgiving ground? Oppel’s ability to write perfectly paced, page-turning prose has not lessened in this third volume of Matt and Kate’s sky-high adventures. I always know I’m in for a treat when I crack open one of Oppel’s books, and so far have never been disappointed. The pseudo-science in this one is especially fun, as Matt and Co. use actual principles of physics and biology to get themselves out of various stellar scrapes. While you can read this astral adventure/romance on it’s own, you’ll probably want to go back and hitch a ride with M &K in Airborn and Skybreaker.
Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel