Larklight, or, The Revenge of the White Spiders!, or, To Saturn’s Rings and Back! : A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space as chronicl’d by Art Mumby, with the aid of Philip Reeve; decorated throughout by David Wyatt.
New York: Bloomsbury, 2006.
In the tradition of Princess of Mars, Reeve brings us a steam punk sci-fi world where Victorian Britain has colonized space. Art Mumby is a normal boy of her majesty’s empire, even if he does live in the middle of space in the eccentric house Larklight with his distracted father and irritating older sister, Myrtle. But when the guests they’re expecting turn out to be a race of giant, white, space spiders, Art and Myrtle must go on an extraordinary adventure, filled with “dauntless pluck” as the title says.
Let me just say first off that I like a book with pictures. This book could either be read as middle-grade fiction, or young adult (though really, it’s appropriate for any age, including adults), but the illustrations don’t pander or condescend. They’re just lovely old style inked pictures with a sort of modern slant, and I want them to be in every book I read.
So I was pretty well disposed to this book as soon as I picked it up, just based on the art alone. The narrative is well written – all the characters speak in the Victorian style, but without a lot of the usual verbiage, so it’s a fast, easy read, which nicely suits the pacing of the action. The characters are a crazy mix of aliens and British people, but there’s a clear message for tolerance (racial and speciel (did I spell that right??), and some subtle anti-colonialism. It’s not heavy handed or preachy, but it’s there. Which is good, because sometimes Victorian England is hard to swallow, space or no space.
Speaking of space, there are the obligatory space pirates, led by the obligatory Captain Jack, who proves vital to the heroes quest and fills up the pages with morally ambiguous awesomeness at the same time. There’s also a crazy scientist villain, and strangely Richard Burton (the explorer, not the actor), but despite these somewhat predictable elements, the freshness of the genre, and the quirkiness of the character’s themselves keeps the book from ever getting stale.
And if it does, just take a minute to check out those illustrations again.
Read this book if you want to see steam punk in novel form – is this first time it’s been done? If not, I want to know about it. Or if you like pirates. Or if you, for whatever reason, have read Princess of Mars.
Dea’s Arbitrary Rating:
Dea’s Random Awesomeness Count:
Vampires: 0 (seriously, when am I going to get some vampires?!)
Tentacle Twins: 1 pair. Awesome.