Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mothstorm review

Mothstorm: The Horror from Beyond Uranus Georgium Sidus!
by Philip Reeve
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
October 2008


First line: "Dunderhead! Clodpole! Ninnyhammer! Booby! Nitwit! Gumph! Yes, 'twas the season of Peace and Goodwill at Larklight, and my sister Myrtle and I, snug in our fleece-lined, winter-weight spacesuits, were out upon the front porch, decorating our Christmas Tree."

The final installment in the Larklight trilogy provides more of the fantastic steampunk Victorian sensibility made familiar to us in Larklight and Starcross. While Mothstorm could easily stand on its own, reading the earlier books is highly recommended. Humorous footnotes accompany the text, and as usual, David Wyatt's intricate 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 Art Mumby and his fussy sister Myrtle  have 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 a space-faring pudding worm, which disguises itself as a raisin and eats Christmas puddings from the inside out. In the meantime, Georgium Sidus (aka Uranus) has sent a distress call, and the siblings head out with the crew of the spaceship Sophronia to investigate.

The omnipotence of Art's mother, in actuality a Shaper, or incorporeal 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.

Brave and intrepid Charity Cruet, an explorer in need of rescuing, provides a great counterpoint to the always proper young Victorian lady, Myrtle. Charity 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 its 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.


Compare to:
Girl Genius - Phil Foglio

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