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ISBN 0002005379 / 9780002005371 / 0-00-200537-9
Publisher HarperCollins Canada, Limited
› Find signed collectible books: 'Airborn'
If you thought the hot-air balloon scenes in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy were exciting, hitch a ride on the Aurora airship in Kenneth Oppel's spectacular young-adult fantasy novel Airborn. Oppel, known for his best-selling Silverwing trilogy about the hidden lives of bats, has more in common with the famous British fantasy author than an interest in flight and a predilection for publishing books in threes. Like the popular Pullman series, Airborn is set in an alternative world where the similarities to our own are every bit as fascinating as the differences. In this case, what if some of the early 20th century's more bizarre experiments in aviation had actually worked? In Oppel's imaginary, not-so-distant past, giant luxury airships ply the air like ocean liners (thanks to a miraculous mango-scented gas called hydrium), while flying contraptions with feathered mechanical wings taxi people about--and everything else is slightly altered as a result.
In its story of a charming, flight-struck 15-year-old cabin boy named Matt Cruse, Airborn combines elements of Treasure Island (a dramatic shipwreck, flying pirates, and a mysterious tropical isle) with an upper-deck/lower-deck romance reminiscent of Titanic. When Matt rescues an old man from his punctured balloon, he dismisses the balloonist's tales of beautiful winged cougars as delirium. But with the arrival aboard ship of the free-spirited Kate de Vries, the fatherless boy finds himself caught up in a scientific quest that reveals as much about his own fear of being land-locked as it does about these elusive "cloud cats." A master stylist, Oppel keeps his prose as streamlined and fast-paced as ever while feathering his tale with flight-inspired allusions to the Icarus myth and Peter Pan. Although not as metaphysically complex as his bat novels, Airborn is a soaring aerial joyride for thinking teens. --Lisa Alward [via]