Starcross by Philip Reeve
Review by Dash Cooray
Philip Reeve’s imagination is something I hold in high esteem. And what could make the deal sweeter than the amazingly intricate illustrations from the talented pen, or pencil, of David Wyatt – who happens to be the favoritest of illustrators in this or any other universe!
Larklight, the first book in the outer space adventures written by Reeve and ‘decorated throughout by David Wyatt,’ was actually my introduction to Reeve. I got the book for Christmas and was immediately smitten.
This review however, is not about Larklight but the second book in the trilogy which chronicles the swashbuckling adventures of Art Mumby who is also the narrator, his horribly sister Myrtle and the dashing, coffee-skinned pirate captain Jack Havock.
This time, the adventure-stricken Mumby family goes on holiday to the shores of Mars for some sea-bathing and end up embroiled in yet another invasion involving very educated top hats!
The absurdity of the notions that fuel Philip Reeve’s space adventure is fantastic simply because he manages to tell it with such a straight face. Art Mumby is your typical Victorian young man, drowning in poetry and the bizarre and bloodthirsty tales of the brave and the bold. Myrtle meanwhile is having a little time off from her sugar-sweet romance with the pirate captain. I love how Art and Myrtle’s sibling rivalry is played out; showing us that even in Victorian steampunk, a sister and a brother will have plenty to disagree about. At one point Art declares he can’t understand what Jack sees in his sister who ‘looks like a loony fish!’ And in another, Myrtle states that although young ladies do not use their fists to make a point, fighting with one’s younger brother is a ‘genteel sport’ that many young ladies actively take part in.
Along for the ride with these irrepressible siblings are French spies, Yankee rebels and man-eating starfish, packed with derring do, time travel and honourable British notions, Starcross is a joy to read with the added bonus of the detailed and delightful illustrations courtesy of Mr. Wyatt. A book that every household with a boy, whether he likes to read or not, should have.
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