Christie Burke's Infinite Booklist

Railsea September 10, 2012

Filed under: adventure,fiction,guys,steampunk,YA — Christie @ 2:58 pm
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Though it was a little bit of a slow start for me, once I got into Railsea I could.not.put.it.down. This is a steampunk novel full of adventure, action, and suspense.

Sham ap Soorap is an apprentice aboard a moling train (think whaling ship and you’ll have the right idea). The sea is a sea of rails instead of water; the beasts that molers hunt (and are hunted by) are giant moles, ant lions of unusual size, and burrowing owls that can lift a train from the tracks. Sham’s voyage takes him to a wrecked train that’s carrying some surprising information, and the pictures he finds lead him to Caldera and Dero Shroake, whose parents (like Sham’s) have long been missing.

The Shroakes’ quest to finish their parents’ mission brings Sham into epic danger, to a daring escape from near-certain death, and ultimately on a journey to the end of the railsea: the place where there’s only one track to travel on.

This is a great novel for those who like adventure, suspense, and action, with a dark and funny little surprise at the end of the line. Recommended.

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Interworld June 13, 2010

Interworld cover, Gaiman/Reaves, 2007

I’ve developed sort of a literary crush on Neil Gaiman.  His writing is clever and just enough off from actual reality to be chilling  (Coraline actually gave me nightmares – that whole parallel universe thing really got to me, for whatever reason.), and I’ll try out any book with his name on it.  I was pleased to run across Interworld (Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves, Eos/HarperCollins, 2007) and intrigued by the premise: not just one parallel world, but hundreds of thousands of worlds, each of which is spun off when someone makes a decision of any import.  If, on a given day, a world leader makes a decision to pursue peace instead of war – and it’s a hard decision, naturally, which affects untold numbers of people – in that leader’s world, his decision stands.  But another world is created in which he made the opposite choice, and any number of things are subtly wrong about that world.

Tenth-grader Joey Harker is the main character of Interworld, and he finds himself walking between worlds without warning or comprehension.  As he comes to understand what’s happening to him (and meets up with the many and varied incarnations of himself that exist in all these parallel worlds), he also learns about the ongoing battle between science and magic in the Multiverse – literally a battle, and literally deadly.  Joey has to make a hero’s decision when he is asked to take on more than he ever considered, and he ends in a place and a mode of living that he would never have thought possible before he started Walking.

I found this book delightfully creepy, action-packed and touching – if a little too easily resolved in some respects.  It’s a good coming-of-age story, and I think it’s interesting that my local library has it cataloged and shelved in Children’s Fiction.  I’d argue for YA/Teen myself.  There are definitely kids in my school who would read and enjoy this book – freshmen more than seniors, I think, but still.  I don’t think I would put Interworld in front of a kid younger than 12, either.  There’s a touch of melancholy and a sense of lostness (also present in Coraline and in Gaiman’s Neverwhere) that I think younger readers would miss or be confused by.  Wherever you want to shelve it, Interworld is a good read, and worth the short time it’ll take you to drink it in.

 

The White Darkness January 7, 2010

McCaughrean, Geraldine.  The White Darkness. HarperTeen, 2005.

Sym Wates is a slightly out of the ordinary 14-year-old girl.  For one thing, she knows pretty much everything there is to know about Antarctica; for another, she sort of has a dead guy rattling around in her head.  Captain Titus Oates was an Antarctic explorer who died there under horrible circumstances, and Sym is so taken with the idea of him that she brings him into her life as a confidant and soul mate (though the rest of us can see that he’s really an imaginary friend).  Sym’s Uncle Victor feeds her Antarctic obsession, but with his own agenda in mind.  When he takes her on a dream trip to “The Ice,” things quickly degenerate into a struggle for survival.

I’ve read this book twice now – the first time was for class, and the second was for book club at school (i.e. I talked a bunch of students into reading it too).  The plot moves fairly well, but the pace of the writing itself is a little inconsistent – as in blah blah blah blah-TRIP TO EUROPE – blah blah blah – WE’RE GOING TO ANTARCTICA WITHOUT YOUR MOM – blah blah blah blah blah EXPLOSION blah blah blah blah STUNNING TURN OF EVENTS.  Aside from the Memorable Plot Points, there is a lot of sameness about this book – but I think it’s well-crafted, deliberate sameness, designed to evoke the monotony of Antarctica itself and of Sym’s day-to-day life.  It’s written in such a way that it made me physically cold when I read it the first time, and while I don’t like being cold, I do appreciate that kind of description.

So yeah, *I* liked this book.  My book club kids were not as enthusiastic about it, and so I’m a little bit on the fence about recommending it for high-school kids (though the kids who liked it liked it A LOT).  One thing I did notice is that the guys in the group did most of the talking, which is a bit of a change.  Not that these guys don’t talk, but typically more of the girls do.  For the right person, it’s a good read.

Related:

Geraldine McCaughrean’s Official Website (Children’s Novels section).  A telling quotation from the blurb on this book: “Who but the mad trust for happiness to someone or something that isn’t there?”  We had lots of conversation about who in this book was and was not completely crazy. FWIW, I think only Victor – because a vivid internal monologue is not necessarily a problem for me. 🙂

A more useful review than  I just wrote, on teenreads.com.

Titus Oates on Wikipedia.