Monday, August 4, 2008

Philip Reeve - Larklight (2006)

Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines series was one of the most impressive works of childrens' literature I'd read for quite some time, so I was very much looking forward to Larklight, the first book in his new series.

Larklight is a Victorian steampunk/space opera work - genres which I'm fond of in childrens', though not in adult, literature - and it's certainly a rip-roaring adventure. The story follows Arthur Mumby's adventures saving the known universe from a race of intergalactic spiders, with lashings of alien exotica and space piracy on the way. The Victorian detail is not quite perfect, and someties verges into cliche, but is generally well done - we find, ultimately, alternate-history as well as strictly fantasy aspects to the tale; and the book is sprinkled with historical and Victorian in-jokes for those with a passing knowledge of the period.

Larklight is aimed at a slightly younger readership than the ME series, so it's much less dark, with less moral ambiguity (though it's not entirely absent), the characters are less developed and psychologically drawn, and we're more focussed entirely on action. Indeed, I found the somewhat convoluted, but also action-packed, plot left me a little exhausted as the narrative switched back and forth from Arthur's POV to his sister Mabel's diary, and leapt from one bizarre situation to the next.

Larklight was a lot of fun, and the Victoriana aspects really made it for me, but nonetheless, if it had been Reeves' first work I'm not sure I'd be following him closely as an author in the way that I followed ME, which was admittedly a hard act to follow. Nonetheless, I am planning to read Starcross, the next instalment in the series, so I won't protest too much...

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