The third (and final?) installment in the Larklight series provides more of the fantastic steampunk Victorian sensibility made familiar to us in Larklight and Starcross. Honestly, this book could stand on it's own... but reading the first two in the series would be highly recommended. Some hilarious footnotes accompany the text, and as usual, David Wyatt's illustrations add much to the feel of the book. We are treated to a few of Myrtle's flowery diary pages, but Art is the main narrator.
It's Christmastime in the Year of Our Lord 1851 and the Mumby family has settled in for the holiday at their home, Larklight, a mansion located on one of the most distant asteroids of the British Empire. They are interrupted by the minor problem of space-faring pudding worm, which disguises itself as a raisin and eats Christmas puddings from the inside out. The major problem is that Georgium Sidus (aka Uranus) has sent a distress call, and the whole family goes out to investigate.
The omnipotence of Art's mother, in actuality a Shaper, or disembodied alien being who created and continues to influence the solar system for the past several millennia, is neatly sidestepped. Encountering an alternate Shaper in another solar system, we see a glimpse of how the world would be if ruled by a despot, rather than a gentle being committed to letting her creations have free will.
The brave and intrepid Charity Cruet provides a great balance to the ever fussy and proper Myrtle. She and Art seem well-suited to each other. Space-pirate Jack Havock and Myrtle's romance shows signs of not being over yet, as they find themselves thrown together again.
The mysteries of Ssilissa's origins are finally revealed. The quiet girl-lizard pilot on Jack Havock's ship turns out to be a member of the Snilth race, from far beyond our galaxy. The Snilth recognize in Ssilissa's knobby tail the former royal family of their people, and abandon their warlike ways to settle on Pluto with her as their queen.
I thought the attempt to rescue Jack's family from the Venusian tree virus could have taken up a whole book on it's own, but everything is rather quickly taken care of in the final chapter. Fans of the series will either be happy to see every loose end so neatly wrapped up, or (like me) wish that there were more. The book is coming out in paperback in November, so if you've missed it when it first came out, definitely consider adding this to your list of "must reads." And, it looks as if Larklight is in development as a movie to be released sometime in 2010, so I expect interest in this trilogy to continue.