Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn (A) introduces a re-imagined Edwardian past in which luxury airships, held aloft by a non-flammable natural gas called "Hydrium," circumnavigate the globe. Matt Cruse is a fifteen-year-old cabin boy of one such airship. When the lovely and headstrong Kate de Vries comes aboard, Matt finds himself wrestling with some unanticipated impulsiveness of his own. As he struggles to balance his newfound adventurousness with his duties to his ship and family, Matt uncovers a deeper emotional trauma he’s kept hidden from himself. If that sounds like “eat your spinach” reading, the book is in fact a masterfully taut thriller, with strange creatures and merciless pirates on either side of Oppel’s narrative high-wire.

Being an open-minded, readerly Daddy-O sort, I was quite willing to be charmed by the spectacular entertainment that Airborn delivers. But I was caught off-guard by the story's deep emotional pay-off. I read this book aloud while my wife drove the family to and from our summer vacation. We somehow managed a safe trip despite Oppel’s nearly-narcotic ability to beguile. In this respect Oppel can be compared to J.K. Rowling without either author suffering. This is a fabulous book, which deserves the largest possible audience.

Update: I just discovered there are two more books in this series. To which I can only say: Woo-hoo!

Links: the book's official website, Kenneth Oppel's site.


DarkoV said...

How I miss those days when the young hunters and gatherers brought home books they and, then subsequently, I thoroughly enjoyed.
I may have to hang out outside a bookstore and, like an under-aged drinker in reverse, cajole a 12 yr old to go in and buy me a young adult book. I don't think that's a crime down here in the States. Yet.

Cowtown Pattie said...

Is it just me, or is it really true the young adult section of fiction has raised the bar in reading deliciousness, even for us less than young adults?

Maybe its a combo of better writers and Boomers need to feel connected with our youthful past?

Whatever the reason, I love a good story.

Thanks for the review - now to add Oppel to my must-read list.

Sheesh. That list grows impossibly longer...and I am greedy.

Whisky Prajer said...

DV - those 12-year-olds sure do come in handy. I took the wheel for a few hours, and my 12-year-old took it upon herself to read us her copy of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid. Even though we couldn't see the equally mirth-inducing illustrations, she had us in stitches.

CP - you've got me thinking of Nick Hornby's admonition, that "dismissing YA books because you're not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you're not a policeman or a dangerous criminal."

I was going to suggest moving quickly on Airborn, because I'd heard that it was being made into a movie by the same guy who's given us The Mummy and G.I. Joe -- which didn't bode well. The news from Oppel's blog, however, is that this project has stalled. *whew*