Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel

starclimberMatt Cruse is out of his element, in more ways than one.  Whether he’s trying to gain traction in the grueling astralnaut training program that will determine the crew of the first vehicle into outer space, or attending posh garden parties to meet his sweetheart Kate’s parents and society friends, Matt can’t quite seem to fit in.  And then comes the part of the story where he is very literally out of his element, as Matt goes off on another one of his wild adventures.  But the ship in this adventure is a little bit different – it’s an elevator to the stars.

Airborn and Skybreaker, the first two books in Oppel’s series, have at their heart Matt’s passion for flying, and his skill and heroism when he is in the air.  Removing Matt from the airships he loves so much and knows so well takes something away from the final book in the series.  I missed the intense joy that Matt feels when he is flying – it is such a defining part of his character that he doesn’t seem quite whole when he is out of the air.  Matt is still a wonderful character, and his determination, resourcefulness, and desire to be good are still here in full force, but I couldn’t help feeling there was something missing.

By bringing Matt and Kate back to their home town, Oppel injects some unease into their usually sweet relationship. Tensions that have been quietly simmering during the first two books make their way to the surface, especially in regards to Matt’s concerns about the class and economic differences that separate them.  Kate is still vivacious and charming – and self-involved to an extreme.  It is easy to see why Matt loves her, and also why he sometimes becomes so frustrated with her in this book.  The many twists and turns of their relationship make the end of the series that much more emotionally satisfying.

Did this book reach the heights of Airborn and Skybreaker?  I felt that it did not quite get there – but those were exceptional books.  Starclimber still kept me awake until two in the morning on a work night – and I was more than willing to concede those hours of sleep for the conclusion of this exciting series.

Starclimber on the web.

Kenneth Oppel on the web.

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