Thursday, January 11, 2007

A rousing tale of dauntless pluck ....

Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space. By Philip Reeve

The premise of the comic fantasy Larklight is that space travel was already possible by the early 1700s, and that by 1851 (when the novel opens), the British Empire had colonized most of the solar system. The (very properly British) Mumby family -- father, brother Art, and sister Myrtle -- are living quietly in their space-ship home, Larklight, orbiting the moon and missing their long-dead wife and mother, Amelia. Then something dreadful happens: Larklight is invaded by space spiders intent on galactic conquest, and also very interested in something in the Mumby family's past that will help in that quest. Mr. Mumby is rolled up in a spider web. Art and Myrtle must flee to the moon, to Venus, to Mars and beyond, in order to stay one step ahead of the bizarre creatures who pursue them, to intercept the spiders' plans for total domination, and to learn what secrets they themselves have been guarding without even knowing it. Along the way they are helped by the dashing boy-pirate Jack Havock and his alien crew; sparks fly at once between rude Jack and the very clean and ladylike Myrtle.

The combination of space adventure with a Victorian setting (and a few real historical characters), plus the wildly imaginative plot twists, make for a unique story. I was a little disappointed in the main characters, who seemed uninteresting in spite of all the action. Still, fans of classic science fiction might also enjoy the inside jokes sprinkled through the book, and feel almost as superior as Myrtle while doing so ... it's a good read!

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