Reviewed: January 9, 2008
By: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
340 pages, $16.99
Skybreaker is the sequel to Airborn, which introduced us to Oppel’s alternate
history in which airships, rather than airplanes, conquered the sky and shrank
the world. In the first novel we met Matt Cruise, who actually was born in the
air and is most at ease when flying. It is is dream to spend a career on the
magnificent, hydrium lifted airships which carry the worlds cargo and passengers.
Written in the style of early 20th century pulp adventure novels, Matt’s
world is one where air pirates roam the skies and the world remains dotted with
unexplored areas. In Airborn he met the rich young scientist Kate De Vries,
and became involved in her quest to rediscover the flying cats her grandfather
had described in his journals before he died in a ballooning accident.
Skybreaker takes up Matt’s story when he has achieved what he never thought
possible and has entered the Paris Airship Academy. While on a practical internship
on third rate cargo ship called the Flotsam, Matt is just about the only crew
member to retain his senses when the captain takes the ship too high in pursuit
of the Hyperion, a fabulous treasure ship presumed lost 40 years earlier.
As a result of this adventure. Matt finds himself in possession of the last
known coordinates of the Theodore Grunel’s fantastic airship, which had
taken off on a secret mission all those years before and had never been heard
Many people want to find the Hyperion. Most want the fabulous treasure Grunel
was rumoured to have had aboard. Kate wants his collection of rare animal specimens.
A cabal of businessmen wants the inventions Grunel was said to be working on
in secret. Matt would like enough of the money to keep his family in comfort
and pay for his further education.
Matt finds himself caught up in a new adventure, financed by Kate and led by
the dashing Captain Hal Slater and his high altitude ship (a sky breaker) the
Saga. Following the trail of the Hyperion, trying to guess where the upper air
winds might have taken her, they find themselves over Antarctica, coping with
the extreme cold of height and latitude, surprised by the deadly stinging aerozoans
of the upper air, and pursued by agents of the cabal, who want sole possession
of Grunel’s secrets.
Oppel has truly captured the spirit of the Victorian adventure tale in these
novels. I’m sure there is much more to explore in Matt’s world,
and can report that Oppel is currently working on a third adventure in this