Stella Matutina
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February 3rd, 2009 
Title: STARCLIMBER
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Series: book three of Airborn
Publisher: Harper Trophy in Canada, HarperTeen in the US, and Faber Children's Books in the UK
Publication Date: August 2008 in Canada and the US; May 2009 in the UK
Pages: 356 in the Canadian hardcover edition
Price: $21.95 CAD, $17.99 USD, £6.99 GBP
Status: library
TBR Status: one down! Horray!

The Official Airborn Website

LibraryThing Info

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Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries have been approached by the Canadian government about an exciting new mission: the very first flight into space. Kate's position is guaranteed; Canada wants her on board as an expert in aerial zoology. Matt, on the other hand, has to compete with dozens of other potential astralnauts before he can claim his place. He's determined to make it, but gaining one of the coveted spots about the Starclimber won't be easy. The training is brutal, and his relationship with Kate becomes more and more strained as the liftoff approaches. Matt begins to wonder if he can pursue his dreams and keep the girl he loves.

You know what? When I first heard of this book, I thought it sounded stupid. No, not just stupid: hella stupid. I wondered what Kenneth Oppel was thinking, sending Matt and Kate into space. Victorian/Edwardianesque science, sending people to space! Pff!

You know what else? I was dead wrong. This book is about as far from stupid as you can get. Yes, it's kind of far fetched, (kind of? Ha!), but it's so awesome that that really doesn't matter.

Y'all know I wasn't quite as thrilled with SKYBREAKER as I was with AIRBORN. Oppel shifted his focus from adventure to interpersonal stuff, and I thought the book suffered for it. It was still good, but it wasn't as much fun. With this latest installment, he's got the balance just right. There's tons of stuff going on between Matt and Kate, and it's good, meaty stuff that delves into and plays off of their relationship in all the right ways. And at the same time, the pair are on the adventure of a lifetime.

With STARCLIMBER, Oppel explores both the ways in Matt and Kate fit together and the ways in which they clash, and he does so beautifully. Their relationship takes on a new dimension this time around; they're seventeen now, and Kate's parents want her to marry a suitable (read: rich) boy and take her place in society. Of course, Matt has some problems with this scenario, and he's none too thrilled with the way Kate deals with it, either. Their relationship moves in some really interesting directions as the situation plays out. I was always rabid to read on, and Oppel ripped my heart out of my chest more than once before the story wound to a close.

The adventure is just as compelling as the romance. The action is a lot more science-centric this time around, what with the intense astralnaut training and the flight into space. (And I'll tell you, I love that Canada won the space race in Oppel's alternate universe. Seriously. Love it). I strongly suspect that it's all bunk, (I mean, spider-crawling up a cable into space? Life in the vacuum? Pff!), but it's incredibly fun bunk. It serves as the backdrop for a really exciting adventure that blends perfectly with all the heady emotional stuff I mentioned above. Each new discovery catapults the reader along and leaves her eager to see what'll happen next. By the end, the story had built up so much momentum that I was speed reading. It's a wild ride. I was always desperate to read on so I could see both the state of Matt and Kate's relationship and their progress towards the stars.

It's a great read from start to finish, and I highly recommend it. You'd probably do best to read the first two before you tackle this one, though; so much of what I loved about this book centered around the relationship between Matt and Kate, which is very much an ongoing thing.

I know Oppel probably wants to move on to other things now, but I really hope he writes at least one more adventure with this characters. I'd love to see where Matt and Kate go from here.

4 stars

Strange Asides:

Have I mentioned that I like the American covers for this series SO MUCH MORE than the Canadian covers? I mean, check that out. Is that not seven hundred and eighty times better than the Canadian cover image at the top of this post?

Challenge Stuff:

The Sci Fi Experience 2009 - now I've done a classic, literary science fiction, short science fiction, short steampunk, and three longer (and lighter) YA steampunks. Next up: downright weird stuff, via Cory Doctorow's SOMEONE COMES TO TOWN, SOMEONE LEAVES TOWN.

Other Reviews:

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