Larklight by Phillip Reeve Book Review

Larklight by Phillip Reeve
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Release Date: September 19, 2006

Arthur (Art) Mumby and his irritating sister Myrtle live with their father in a huge rambling house called Larklight, which travels on a remote orbit far beyond the Moon. On a rather ordinary morning they receive a correspondence informing them that a gentleman is on his way for a visit, a Mr. Webster. However, when their guests arrive it becomes apparent that Mr. Webster is actually a giant spider in a bowler hat, intent on killing them. Together Art and Myrtle escape and are soon swept up in a cosmic adventure that bring them in close contact with all sorts of aliens, darkness, spiders, and strange ancient devices.

With a true Jules Verne vibe, this tale hearkens back to the era where space wasn't a cold vast place, but rather one in which all manner of colorful aliens lived and thrived. Although technically I think we would consider this to be "steampunk" by today's standards, I felt it had more of a classical feel to it. There is of course, the obligatory parallel history, but beyond a giant automaton, it felt much more like Verne's The Voyages Extraordinaires.

The story itself was exciting and action packed, although I didn't care for either of the Mumby children who are regrettably the main characters. Although funny in narration, Art lacks any drive and despite being smart, would not have gotten very far at all on his own. Myrtle is so terribly spoiled, sanctimonious, and downright rude that I was kind of glad when she was kidnapped because I thought we wouldn't have to hear from her for a while. This was not the case however, for Myrtle gets her own chapters to tell her story, which (I think) were supposed to make me like her. Most interesting of all is that, as mentioned before, it has a classic adventure story feel, but the author went all the way, making sure that his main female character (Myrtle) faints or wants to faint on a fairly regular basis and matches the typical weak female archetype found in Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and  Haggard. To be fair, in the end, Myrtle does help save the day and is a little less insufferable, however considering she is still sanctimonious and extremely biased I just couldn't get on her side. If the story had been more about our pirate friend Jack Havok I would have been much more interested for not only did he have a much more interesting backstory, but he was also smart, kind, and knew what to do in any given situation. Yes, Jack and his crew would have made for more interesting characters.

This is in all a fun plot-driven story with fun twists. There are pirates, spiders, mushroom Moon people, giant moths, Venusian plagues, and even the Queen of England. Despite my dislike of the characters, I am definitely intrigued enough to pick up the second book and see where the story takes me.