Starcross is Philip Reeve’s sequel to his awesome Larklight (SF Signal review) novel for young readers. This time, Art Mumby, his sister Myrtle and their mother travel to the finest sea-bathing resort in the asteroid belt, Starcross. While there, they encounter all manner of strange and interesting things, the least of which is menacing mechanical Punch and Judy machines. The mystery they uncover could spell doom for the British Empire!
The best thing about this series of books has to be the setting: a Victorian-era British Empire chock-a-block full of all types of steampunk machines and devices. The British have also managed to conquer part of the Solar System via their use of aetherships to ply the spacelanes, using their alchemical FTL engines, between the planets. It’s easy to see why these books would be optioned for a major motion picture. Add to the setting a bevy of interesting characters and place them in a strange but interesting story and you have a sure fire winner. Starcross displays Reeve’s wild imagination at it’s very best, weaving in long-lost American rebels, time travel, and menacing top hats that seem to have a mind of their own. The story starts out a bit slow, after a quick prologue, then picks up the pace as Art and company bounce between the ancient past, the ‘modern’ day and the far future. All of this with Reeve’s sly humor and attention to detail. If you liked Larklight you’ll like Starcross just as much. Add in the whimsical drawings of David Wyatt and you have a winner of a book.
About the only issue I had with the book, and it may be out of place to hit a kid’s book for this, was with in the resolution of some of the events depicted. Reeve occasionally glosses over some of the events in the book, resolving issues in just a sentence or two, or by having the characters overcome their hardships with relative ease. This happened a couple of times and it became distracting. I realize that it’s written for the younger set, but I think 9 to 12 year olds can handle a bit more complexity to their story and a bit more length. But this is just a nit in an otherwise fine story.
If you like steampunk, you owe it to yourself to pick up Larklight and then Starcross. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll have a leg up on all the non-readers when the movie comes out. It’s a win-win! Oh yeah, let your kids read it when you are done.