Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: Planesrunner

Planesrunner

Everness, Book One
by Ian McDonald

I decided to try a new format for my reviews. I hope this is a useful format.

Plot: Everett Singh's dad, a quantum physicist, is kidnapped off the street in view of Everett by three men in a black car. Later that night, Everett gets a message from his father containing a mysterious app, with only the note "For you only, Everett." Turns out that his dad has been working on a scientific project seeking physical proof of parallel universes, and the app is a map of all the known universes, the only one of its kind in existence. Now Everett is on the run from agents of the Plenitude, an alliance of the known universes. They want the map, called the Infundibulum, and will stop at nothing to get it. But Everett has other plans, and he uses the Infundibulum to travel to an alternate London in a daring attempt to rescue his dad.

Notable Characters:

  • Everett Singh. Teen boy who is as good at cooking as he is at math, and not afraid to use either in pursuit of his goal. Punjabi, or at least half Punjabi (his dad is Punjabi, but I never figured out if his mom is). Authentic teen male voice.
  • Sen Sixsmyth. Fearless teen girl with an attitude and a love for "bona" tech. Airship pilot in an alternate London.
  • Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth. Sen's adoptive mother. No-nonsense airship captain. Strict but compassionate, not afraid of a fight.

Worldbuilding: Excellent! The second half of the book takes place in E3, an alternate universe in which oil-based technology was never developed and modern technology comes out of a coal-based heritage. More advanced than our universe in some ways - carbon nanotubes are used everwhere - but less advanced in some areas, like computing. Very steampunkish feel.

Things I liked: 

  • The worldbuilding and the steampunkish feel to E3, as noted above.
  • Airships!
  • Hard science fiction that doesn't shy away from science and math.
  • Authentic teen boy voice. A boy who's good at math and soccer and cooking, and isn't afraid to use his culinary skills.
  • Sen Sixsmyth is just about the best thing about this book. She's a fantastic character. Her adoptive mother Captain Anastasia is pretty awesome, too.
  • The bond between Everett and his dad. Everett is a typical teen boy, and mentally rolls his eyes at some of the things his dad does, but it's clear that they are close, and Everett literally travels to another universe to rescue his dad. 
Issues:
  • There's too much detail in the descriptions, and it bogs down the story in some places. In some ways the detail is good, as it contributes to the worldbuilding. It's also authentic to the protagonist, as we learn early on that he notices details and connections. However, in places there's so much detail that it almost seems to be stream of consciousness and it's hard to follow.
  • I think the cover really does the book a disservice, and probably deters a lot of teens from picking it up. The biggest problem with it is it's too busy. I think the picture of Everett coming through the gate would have made a better cover. Although I have a problem with that image as well, as he looks more like a caucasian with a tan than someone of Indian ancestry.
Who would like this book:
  • Math and science geeks
  • Steampunk fans
  • Boys and girls
  • Hard science fiction fans
Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Copy received from the publisher for evaluation as a Cybils awards nominee.  The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.
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