Monday, April 02, 2007


Book: Larklight
Author: Philip Reeve
Published: 2006

Art Mumby and his sister Myrtle are having a regular old day at Larklight, their ancestral house which floats on the far side of the moon. The gravity generator has to be turned off so the hoverhogs can eat the floating debris, and they're planning to go out and watch their visitor's spaceship dock at the front door. Also, Myrtle is practicing her new piano piece.

But their new visitor doesn't turn out to be a personable gentleman, as Myrtle was hoping. Instead, he's a giant spider (although he does wear a hat and speak English) who invades their home, wraps their father in a web, and keeps asking for the key to Larklight. Art and Myrtle manage to escape, only to land on the moon. Once there, they almost get eaten by giant moths, are rescued by pirates, and discover that the spiders are actually a prehistoric race from Saturn's rings, intent on destroying the solar system. And the only thing that can stop them is Larklight. But what exactly is the key?

Dear me. This could get a mite sticky.

I adore an off-kilter book, and this definitely counts. Reeves has cooked up a deliciously kooky blend of Victorian adventure novel and space opera, complete with elaborate chapter headings such as "We return home (huzzah!) but discover that it may already be too late to save dear old England from the vengeance of the First Ones (boo!)" It races headlong from exotic locale to exotic locale, bursting at the seams with adventures that are all the more entertaining for their unlikeliness.

For readers that are up on their English history, some of the fun is in seeing how Reeves took actual characters and events (Isaac Newton, the explorer Richard Burton, the Crystal Palace of the 1851 Exhibition) and tweaks them to serve his story. Art’s sister Myrtle can get rather annoying, since she’s usually your traditional fainting maiden, but other than that, Larklight is a grand old time.

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