Eye-bulging escapades tempered with invention and mordant wit, perfectly complemented by the author’s own pen-and-ink...

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RAILSEA

Moby-Dick meets Kidnapped by way of the Strugatsky brothers’ Roadside Picnic: Another astonishing blend of cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy and science fiction, from the hugely talented author of Embassytown (2011, etc.).

In a world of endless land threaded and interwoven with train tracks, gigantic and voracious subterranean rats, stoats, millipedes and the like, layer upon layer of archaeological remains and a poisonous upper sky inhabited by flying angels, Capt. Naphi of the moletrain Medes hunts Mocker-Jack, a colossal yellow molelike moldywarpe. Other moletrain captains like Naphi are equally obsessed with pursuing their “philosophy,” while other trains make a living salvaging the plentiful and often incomprehensible detritus of past civilizations and the discarded junk of passing aliens, while still others ply more orthodox trades. Young Sham Yes ap Soorap is Medes’ apprentice doctor, a profession he has little aptitude for or interest in. While investigating a wrecked train, with which the landscape is littered, he discovers an ancient camera card whose pictures show, impossibly, a part of the Railsea that has narrowed down to a single set of tracks. Who took the pictures, and where might the tracks lead? Many folks, including pirates and some of Medes’ own crew, dream of treasure. Miéville’s omniscient, detachedly amused narrator (whose identity is eventually, slyly, revealed) follows these and other points of view in relating a yarn that can be read as pure adventure, tongue-in-cheek homage, gleeful satire or philosophical meditation. It’s billed as YA and, indeed, Miéville’s usual high level of violence and sex is toned down, often to the point where the characters appear gender free (in one case, literally so).

 Eye-bulging escapades tempered with invention and mordant wit, perfectly complemented by the author’s own pen-and-ink drawings of the Railsea’s weird denizens.

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-52452-2

Page Count: 433

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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THE LAST BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE

In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

BEHIND THE BLUE

A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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