Ian McDonald – Planesrunner
14. Planesrunner by Ian McDonald (2011)
Everness, Book 1
Length: 270 pages
Genre: YA Steampunk Science Fiction (although McDonald makes a point of mentioning about how his alternate universe never developed steam engines, so that’s probably technically not the right word. But airships = steampunk, so.)
Started: 05 February 2012
Finished: 07 February 2012
Where did it come from / Why do I have it? Christmas present from a friend, who, upon my thank-you call, went on a mini-rant about how hard it is to find me books that I’ll like but that I haven’t already heard of (and put on my wishlist). I’m sure that’s true, but as you can see below, he does an excellent job with it.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 28 December 2011.
I wonder if they
publish a Visitor’s Guide
to the Multiverse?
Summary: Everett Singh’s father is a quantum physicist, and ever since Everett was young, his father has tried to explain to him the concept of the Multiverse – an infinite number of parallel worlds that exist simultaneously with our own. When Dr. Singh is kidnapped by men in black suits, and Everett receives a mysterious computer program sent by his father, he knows that the two must be connected, and somehow connected to the existence of these other worlds. The program is the Infundibulum – the only extant map to the other universes – and the government, not just of our world but of all the worlds, wants it. In an attempt to escape, Everett travels the universe in which he thinks they’re holding his father hostage, and gets picked up by Sen Sixsmyth, a pilot aboard the airship Everness. The Airish are a tight-knit group, but Everett must earn their trust if he ever wants to see his father – or get back to his own universe – again.
Review: This book is a crazy mishmash of subgenres and ideas – techno-thriller, government conspiracy, parallel universes, steampunk London, etc. – but it is all so damned cool that it somehow works together. It also helped that this book was a complete unknown quantity when I started – I’d heard Ian McDonald’s name, but never read any of his stuff, and never heard of Planesrunner – so there was an element of surprise as well. The book was extremely fast-paced, with plenty of action, and while I could tell that some scenes were there primarily because they’d appeal to the target demographic (read: thirteen-year-old boys), I was having so much fun that I didn’t mind. But the whole thing is not just universe-jumping and using Palari thieves’ cant and outsmarting the authorities and airship battles, although that’s a large part. There’s also some interesting character and relationship dynamics going on under the surface, as Everett has to deal with what his universe-jumping is doing to his family, and his feelings for the manic but brittle Sen.
McDonald does an excellent job of bringing his alternate London to life, and filling in enough of the detail and backstory so that it’s a plausible path the universe could have taken. It’s especially impressive how vivid his city is, given that he’s not one to linger much over his descriptions; in fact, his prose in places got weirdly short and choppy. (I would say it took some getting used to, but I was typically too interested in getting to the next part of the story to do more than briefly notice the sentence structure.)
In short, I had a blast reading this, am surprised more people haven’t heard of it, and will be anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Fans of YA sci-fi/fantasy, steampunk, or alternate universes should definitely pick this one up.
First Line: The car was black.
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