Airborn – Kenneth Oppel

airbornOn The Cover: Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

Published: 2005

Other Books by this Author:

Silverwing


 

The Review:

I was super nervous when I picked this book up. Kenneth Oppel’s book Silverwing was one of my all-time favourites growing up – yet I’ve never read any of Oppel’s other works. What if this book doesn’t live up to all of my beloved childhood memories of Oppel’s worlds? (No pressure, Airborn!)

Within the first few pages I was immersed. The same feelings I got from reading Silverwing were weaved throughout Airborn, and I felt practically giddy with happiness the entire time I was reading this book. Oppel has a way of sucking me into his worlds, of completely convincing me of his realities, and the excitement and adventure are so solid that I never have a moment of doubt when reading his books.

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Hands down my favourite aspect of this book is being on an airship. The descriptions of the ship flying, sailing, even landing and taking off are majestic. Oppel certainly has an appreciation for the beauty of flight. The descriptions of the airship itself were equally fascinating. Oppel manages to convey a great deal about the ship’s inner workings using very little description, and Matt’s viewpoint was especially well utilized to give the reader an inside view to every working aspect of the airship. I also appreciated that the action itself used every corner of the airship – from the passenger lounges to the outside sails, from the cargo bays to the bridge, the book was inside and out of the airship and I absolutely loved how much the airship was used. It was not just a setting – it was an integral part of the story, intertwined in the narrative itself.

Perhaps the easiest complaint would be to pinpoint the simplicity of the characters. On the surface the characters are young, naïve, and appear as one dimensional – Kate is a rich brat, and Matt has only one desire in life – to fly. But as I progressed through the book I began to appreciate both characters for their subtleties and the nuances of their choices. I do think these characters will appeal to the younger side of YA readers – but the adventure contained in these pages will appeal to readers of any age who only want to soar above the clouds.

Rating: 5 / 5

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Quotations:

“The ornithopter’s drone grew louder. Crouching, I could just see it, behind the Aurora’s tail fins, coming in. It seemed to be hardly moving, wings scarcely beating now, and I thought he would make it first try. But when the ornithopter was only feet away from the docking trapeze, it shuddered and dipped, and I heard shouts of alarm from the passengers as the ornithopter dropped away and banked sharply.” (OverDrive eBook)

“The foliage was so high and thick that I couldn’t see the sky. The humid air pressed against my chest. Great pine-like trees, with slender drooping branches, bristled with spiky flowers. Ferns and fronds and vines and brilliant petals were everywhere. A shrieking parrot flashed by, scarlet and green. Insects chattered in the perfumed heat. I kept looking for the light between trees, the brightness overhead, just wanting to punch through it all. Just wanting a horizon.” (OverDrive eBook)

 

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Armada – Ernest Cline

armadaOn the Cover: Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

Published: 2015


 

The Review:

I was really excited going into Armada. I loved Ready Player One by Ernest Cline so much I read it twice, back to back. I love that Armada is still going with the whole video-game theme and was looking for more of that same love, crossing my fingers that it would be just as strong of a novel.

Cline totally exceeded my expectations in one place: the action scenes. Cline has an amazing gift of bringing video game sequences to life and creating a vivid experience. I was captivated by every fight scene, and it was like I could hear and feel the fight happening around me. I am absolutely in love with these fight scenes, with all of the guns blazing and heart-stopping flight maneuvers.

I just wish I could say that about the rest of the story.

Zack is a strong main character, and I did like him. He doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life – he just likes playing video games – and I think that will resonate with a lot of readers. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters really fall flat for me. They are either totally one dimensional or simply feel opportunistic and exist for the sole purpose of forwarding the plot. The love story just feels needlessly inserted into the story, and to be honest I wish it hadn’t been there at all.

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I also wasn’t sure about the premise of the story. Secret military forces, invading flying saucers, video-game players called forward for the greater good… to be honest, it felt like a really cheesy science fiction movie. I found myself grimacing at the ending and that is just never a good feeling.

Ernest Cline hit a home run with Ready Player One and thus had the monumental task of trying to live up to that fame. Armada certainly feels like Cline is trying to capture the same magic, but he sadly misses the mark. This story should be read for one reason only: the fight scenes. They are cinematic and breath-taking, and sit on a foundation which will woo some niche readers. I look forward to Cline’s next novel, and I hope to see a more solid foundation for his amazing action sequences.

Rating: 3 / 5

Action and Adventure: 5 / 5
World Building: 4 / 5
Characters: 2 / 5
Story Premise: 2 / 5

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