What I Just Read: Starclimber

I loved Kenneth Oppel’s previous books in this series, Airborn and Skybreaker. And I enjoyed this one–but not as much.

Don’t get me wrong, it was great to catch up with Matt and Kate. But I just couldn’t quite suspend my disbelief at the notion of the successful launch of a space elevator cable using what’s essentially early 20th-century technology, even given that it’s based on some exotic material harvested from meteorites. At times the physics of zero-G didn’t ring quite true (not enough distinction between weight and mass–sure, you’re weightless in zero-G, but you’ve still got mass, so, for instance, tugging on an umbilical with an astronaut at the end of it is still going to produce resistance until the astronaut is in motion; weightlessness doesn’t turn him into a helium balloon). And while I was willing to grant the bizarre upper-atmosphere creatures featured in the previous books, filling space with the equivalent of plankton and whales…sorry, can’t buy it. Although if space were that full of living creatures, I guess you wouldn’t need to go looking for dark matter to make up the missing mass…

I guess you could say the cable on which my disbelief was suspended snapped sometime before I came to the end of the story, although I did appreciate the passing mention of Moose Jaw.

Still a good book–but not as good as the first two. IMHO.

Up next on my agenda: Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan.

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    • Edward Willett on September 30, 2008 at 6:13 am
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    I’ve had exactly the same reaction. Everything I really enjy about Kenneth Oppel’s books, I find even more of, on a grander scale, in Karl’s. Good books, all of them–but I think Karl’s are actually better, and though not published as YA, certainly should appeal to teen readers.

    • Robert on September 30, 2008 at 3:18 am
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    I loved the first book, liked the second okay, so am now worried from your review that there is a downward trend evident…. I got that feeling just looking at the cover and blurb. The astronaut thing just didn’t seem consistent with the rest of the world he was building. But we’ll see.

    But I’m having a more fundamental problem with the series. Much as I admired the first book especially, I can’t help but feel that it falls far short of Karl Schroeder’s Virga series. You want daring-do adventure? Karl does it better. You want pirates, by god, Karl gives you pirates! There are a lot of parallels between the two series, and granted that Karl has a bit more wiggle room given that the books are intended for a more adult audience, but it bugs me that Schroeder is not even considered for a GG because he is classed as a genre writer, while Oppel is sold in Costco because he is somehow more respectable. Who decides these things? Oppel is great and deserved his GG, and I am delighted to see so many copies moving out the door, but for heavens sake, shouldn’t at least a bit of that traffic go for Virga too?

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