Pat's Reviews > Planesrunner

Planesrunner by Ian McDonald
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Jul 13, 12

Read from July 05 to 12, 2012

This is a bit of a hybrid, which I like, and a bit of a departure from my usual literary haunts, which I also like... I just wish I liked the book a bit more. The basics: boy has scientist father, scientist father Discovers Something Momentous, scientist father gets kidnapped. That's all in about the first three pages or so. Everett Singh, the boy, is a likable enough protagonist, his actions and reactions are believable for a boy of his age (I don't recall if it's ever stated but he's in his late teens), and it's Ian McDonald who has an excellent command of the language so the writing is fine, but there was something about this book that didn't excite me as much as the other one I've read by him, "River of Gods". Perhaps it's the Young Adult part of the book-- I find I don't generally enjoy PG or G or even most PG-13 movies because of the limits placed upon their content and language, and I find the same holds true for most books as well. There are some books for kids that I adore (the Harry Potter series, for one, or just about anything by Roald Dahl, also the Great Brain series by (not that) Fitzgerald, um, Zilpha Keatley Snyder's "Black and Blue Magic", to name a few) but mostly I find them flat, uninspiring, oddly truncated. I had the same reaction to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson book 1, "The Lightning Thief"-- it wasn't a bad book but I'm not a kid and I need my escapist worlds to be more real and more grownup than the genre will allow. Which is a bit of a problem for a writer who has at least one YA book slotted into his Giant Epic Fantasy Series and may be the reason that particular book has been stalled-out at about page 130 for the past few years. I'm not kid-friendly, and it's a tremendous strain to attempt to tell a tale in a grim and gritty world that doesn't end up being as grownup as the rest of the books in the series. Perhaps Ian McDonald ran into the same problem here? "River of Gods" was brilliant (albeit a bit slow in the beginning) and this book feels.. merely adequate. Midway through it gets more interesting, as Everett's pursuit of his father throws him into a world of airships and steampunk-esque hijinks, and the remainder of the book is a fun string of action sequences in airship land. i'm not an expert on steampunk (i've been avoiding most of it because a lot of steampunk has Victorian influences and I can't stand the damned Victorians) so perhaps the airship parts of this novel are fairly standard steampunk stuff, i wouldn't know. I am now curious to read Cherie Priest's book "Dreadnaut" (or however it's spelled) because that one's been recommended as a good example of steampunk done right, so that's a good thing, but all in all except for the last thirty pages I found myself wanting to just be done reading it so that I could get onto something else (like maybe another Paul Auster or some of the fantasy on my to-read list). I don't know whether I'd pick up book 2 when it comes out. I think it'll depend on what else i'm reading at the time and whether i still have the same feelings of "meh." I do like McDonald, and will at some point get around to another of his grownup books, "The Dervish House", but I might just be too old and crotchety to enjoy YA fiction anymore...
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