fiction favorites…Larklight

Larklight, by Philip Reeve, illustrated by David Wyatt

We had been bounding along for about an hour when we saw something moving on a hilltop ahead and, drawing nearer, recognised a gaggle of the great lunar snails.  They were oozing along in a sort of flock, their big mauve shells jostling and scraping one against another, and they were accompanied by a mushroom, who seemed to be acting as their shepherd — or rather as their snail herd, I suppose. 
Myrtle, being the eldest, decided to take charge.  She bounced up to the snailherd and said loudly and clearly, ‘Excuse me, my good fungus, we have been shipwrecked on your horrid planet.  Please direct us to the residence of the British Governor.’
The mushroom tilted his broad, spotted cap at her, and two sad, black eyes blinked out from beneath his gills.  He made a bobbing motion, and said something in the whispery, sighing speech of the Moon.
‘How perfectly vexing!” said Myrtle crossly.  ‘He does not speak English.  He has probably never seen a human being before.  I –oh, eek!”

Enter the world of Larklight.

Amidst the current deluge of fantasy fiction for children, this book, the first of three in a series, stands apart for its crazy-unique worlds, elaborate new species, breathless pacing, delightful humor, and all around jolly good fun!  Here is a writer who knows how to handle words!!

Of course, as in any good fantasy, it is at the core a story of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys.  But here the Good Guys are a mixture of humans, talking mushrooms, space pirates, and giant blue lizards of unknown origin.  And the Bad Guys?  Potter moths and ancient white spiders, dastardly British scientists and Martian cacti soldiers.  Throw in a few dozen hoverhogs, intergalactic travel, Victoria and Albert’s Crystal Palace, and a little romance for good measure and you can see that you’ve never gone anywhere quite like this!

This is science fiction set in Victorian England.  Fantasy with a heavy dose of dry British humor.  Unrelenting action, battles, and chase scenes, mixed with plenty of slightly-distorted historical references and allusions to tickle the fancy of discerning older readers.  Chapter titles such as, “Chapter Fourteen — Another Dip Into My Sister’s Diaries, Which May Be Welcomed By Readers of a Sensitive Disposition as a Sort Of Break or Breathing Space From My Own Almost Unbearably Exciting Adventures” are hilarious spoofs on the Victorian genre.

David Wyatt has illustrated the book with pen-and-ink illustrations, superbly capturing  the Victorian stylings of the humans, the sci-fi look of their spaceships, and the weird and wonderful worlds they visit.

This book is for older elementary and up.  Voracious readers can attempt this somewhat earlier, but be aware that the vocabulary and writing are very rich, and the dry humor and allusions will be missed by readers who are too young.  There is a bit of cursing — these are pirates after all — but even this is represented in true Victorian style complete with dashes, as in “I don’t give a d–n about your Empire” and met with shock by respectable folk!  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it  for kids (or adults!) looking for a rip-roaring adventure!  Sequels, which look every bit as good, are Starcross and Mothstorm.

For an astonishing multi-media introduction to the world of Larklight, click on the link: