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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For there is a pirate king (there is!)
Space. It's so done, isn't it? Nine times out of ten the stories that take place in outer space are just metaphors for cowboys anyway. Star Wars. Star Trek. Firefly. Some work better than others, but the idea of a sci-fi space-based children's book would, under normal circumstances, do nothing to lift the rate of my pulse. Obviously this must have occurred to...
Published on May 4, 2007 by E. R. Bird

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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars irritating & sexist (spoilers)
I had high hopes for this book. The premise was creative. The illustrations were delightful, and the title hints at a clever rendering of fantasy/adventure in space. This book could have been great. It's definitely action packed, with appropriately creepy villians, but there were enough problems with it to completely overcome these promising ingredients...
Published on September 28, 2011 by ellen marie


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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For there is a pirate king (there is!), May 4, 2007
Space. It's so done, isn't it? Nine times out of ten the stories that take place in outer space are just metaphors for cowboys anyway. Star Wars. Star Trek. Firefly. Some work better than others, but the idea of a sci-fi space-based children's book would, under normal circumstances, do nothing to lift the rate of my pulse. Obviously this must have occurred to author Philip Reeve as well. Best known until now for his The Hungry City Chronicles, Reeve turns his sights on his nation's dirty past. But what if that dirty past were transposed into the outer regions of space? A space where breathing in zero gravity isn't really a problem, there are aliens galore, and the British figured out how to conquer the universe when Isaac Newton figured out space travel? Suddenly things are looking a lot more interesting.

Living on a lonely little home floating not too far from their beloved Earth, young Art Mumby and his older sister Myrtle have only known Larklight as their home. After their mother disappeared a couple years ago, however, their father has become increasingly lost in his own private world. That all changes when suddenly when, without warning, Larklight and its denizens (robot servants and otherwise) are attacked by giant, vicious spiders. Art and Myrtle barely escape with their lives and in doing so come in direct contact with the infamous space pirate Jack Havock (approximate age: 14). It appears that there was always more to Larklight than met the eye, and when the siblings are split apart they must individually find a way to defeat a nefarious villain, save the British empire, and recover the ones they love. Pluck, in large quantities, is going to be necessary.

Really, colonialism in space isn't necessarily a new idea either. Even Douglas Adams knew that. But to the best of my supremely limited knowledge, no one has ever created a sci-fi children's novel where the essential premise is that space travel came to Earth early. Just extrapolate that a little further and you end up with Britain at the height of its let's-grab-all-the-countries-in-the-world ideology, only transplanted into the universe at large and onto innocent planets (and their inhabitants). It's seamless. With peculiar aliens brought to London for "research", space colonists yearning to see the motherland, and a smattering of history alongside (the American colonies are still feisty but not, as of yet, beating England in the 19th century space race) the author turns the screw just a bit more when he makes the villain the biggest colonist of them all.

Reeve employs a skill that has stood him in good stead all these years; He can make any situation believable. I mean, have you ever read his "Hungry City" titles? Few authors could pull off the whole in-the-future-wheeled-cities-will-eat-other-cities idea. He can. Now, having conquered the future, he's determined to bend the past to his will as well. And if along the way he's able to package it all in a kind of boy's adventure style, so be it. At times you can tell that the author is showing off too. To place this book thoroughly in its time period there are plenty of references to famous characters of the day. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Andrew Marvell. Even a quick poem by Lord Tennyson that comes close to being almost too clever. And the boy's adventure style actually works perfectly as the kind of tale Reeves wants to tell. Art is an upstanding fellow who, when his home has been attacked by gigantic spiders and his father undoubtedly killed, leads his sister to safety with a stiff, "I am afraid that something rather disagreeable has happened." Do not assume that Myrtle is your typical faint and gasp heroine, however. That is the advantage of writing this kind of book today. First of all, she sports a natty little pair of glasses making her the best glasses-wearing sci-fi space traveler since Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. Be that as it may, she's an unapologetic loyalist. Myrtle only sees the world (at first, anyway) as society would have her see it. Art too, for that matter. For example, he mentions that the denizens of the moon were "discovered" by the British they, "were so primitive that they showed no interest whatsoever in the new arrivals." And thusly does the p-word raise its ugly head. Myrtle, for her part, is particularly discomfited to hear of a British secret agent taking a Martian "native" as a wife.

Part of the reason I enjoy Reeve as an author is his sense of humor. He pulls off sentences and scenes that simply should not work, and all because he knows how to utilize a kind of inspired sense of style. For example, when it looks like all is lost for Art he says, "It seemed so unfair to have one's father eaten by a spider and one's sister devoured by a caterpillar on the same day (though I suppose flies must put up with that sort of thing all the time and you do not hear them moaning about it)." Or, in another instance, the alien shipmates are, "bellowing out a lusty shanty called, `Farewell and Adieu to You Ladies of Ph'Arhpuu'xxtpllsprngg'." Or (and this is a single instance so don't judge the book harshly for it) there is even a moment when the captain of a ship turns to one of his crew to ask for the impossible. The response? "I cannae do it, Captain. I'm an alchemist, not an engineer."

It would be easy to miss the author's clever little dance is done around questions of religion and spirituality, I think. In part because it simply doesn't fit in with the essential premise (i.e. gigantic "makers" who merrily go about creating the universe) but also because a man can only write a children's book that's so long. I was a little shocked to see that even with all the illustrations, "Larklight" only comes to a slip of 400 pages. By rights, it should be longer.

Speaking of the illustrations, pity me. I read this book initially without the final art. Even worse? I didn't even know the sheer vast amounts of art that would appear in the final copy. I didn't know that a David Wyatt would essentially bend over backwards to bring to life the perfect convergence of space and Victorian tales of heroism and derring-do. When I finally did get my hands on a final copy of the book I was stunned. I spent the better part of an hour pouring over the book again to see whether or not the images I'd conjured up in my head were anything like Wyatt's. Sometimes they were. Myrtle, for example, was spot on. Ditto Art, his parents, and maybe even the villain (lips sealed on that one) near the end. Oh! And when a certain architectural structure becomes a nightmarish horror, THAT looked bloody brilliant! Sadly I wasn't particularly taken with the views of Jack and the alien Ssilissa. They didn't gel with how I'd pictured them, but that isn't to say they weren't accurate to the story itself. And Jack does kind of resemble a 14-year-old Humphrey Bogart. Whether you agree with the artist's visions or not, the book may well be worth the price of admission alone based solely on the endpapers. A mishmash of Victorian newspaper ads mixed with space aliens and technology, I half wondered if Reeve had secretly written these as well. Watson's Dirigible Domestic Aid. Hogwash (for cleaning one's hoverhogs). Taylor's Pure Icthyomoroph Liver Oil. And, most cleverly of all, "Rossetti's Goblin Fair `Come Buy, Come Buy!' 42 Stalls. Fruit, Berries, Treen, Owl, Wheedling, Country Crafts, Exotic Conserves, Bog Fettling, Scalding and Rummagin." Someone give one of these men an award for this tiny ad alone, please.

All in all, it's a romp. A show. A true example of sci-fi done to the maximum amusement of its readers. That this book isn't well known to all children everywhere is a crime. But science fiction hasn't hit the renaissance that fantasy has. As a result, we must push and push to bring books of this caliber to the attention of the world. I've done my part. I suggest you, on the other hand, just go through the motions of reading it. Once you have, sheer exuberance for how good it is should take care of the rest.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too, November 30, 2006
When eleven-year-old Art Mumby finds out that a visitor is arriving at his run-down home, Larklight, which floats in space beyond the moon, he hardly expects to be thrust into a frightening adventure of pirates, plates, and a millenium-long conflict upon which the fate of the solar system rests. He tells the story of this adventure in LARKLIGHT (occasionally giving his older sister, Myrtle, a chance to narrate via her diary), and the story is nothing if not fantastic.

Philip Reeve (author of the Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles)) has created another fascinating world in LARKLIGHT. Art lives in the Victorian society of the 1800's--or rather, what Victorian society would have looked like if they'd developed space travel, and astronomy worked according to early speculations about aether (an air-like substance in space that people can move and breathe in), and interplanetary beings (Venus, Mars, and the moons of Jupiter are all home to a variety of life forms). Reeve cuts no corners, painting the cities and citizens of the solar system in dazzling detail. The setting is a gorgeous mix of fantasy and science fiction, and fans of both genres will find much to enjoy.

If the world wasn't exciting enough on its own, the adventure is of the edge-of-your-seat variety. Art and Myrtle tumble from one tense situation to another with alarming frequency. Most chapters end on cliffhangers, so be prepared to have trouble finding a place to pause. Reeve throws in enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing right until the end, and both Art and Myrtle get the chance to play hero.

Art, as the main character, is not yet a teen himself, so teens may find his narration a little immature for their liking. If they're willing to give him a chance, though, they will discover that LARKLIGHT is a fast-paced, imaginative journey well worth taking.

Reviewed by: Lynn Crow
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better, February 22, 2007
By 
Fred (United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I really wanted to like this book. It seemed like exactly the kind of thing I've been waiting for without realizing it. But it fell short for me. For some reason I just couldn't get into it. I can't put my finger on it, but I never really got very involved, and I didn't really find myself looking forward to continuing it each day. The only parts that were compelling to me were Myrtle's diary chapters. Perhaps that's the thing, that the rest of the writing felt too detached, like I was watching it from afar instead of feeling involved.

The two biggest problems I had were as follows:

1) The character of Myrtle was too annoying for too long. I knew that the idea was that she'd redeem herself, but there was nothing endearing about her that made me want anything other than for her to just disappear from the story all together. Later in the book her diary pages were good, but that was because they mostly dropped the annoying aspects of her character.

2) I didn't find the spiders to be even remotely plausible. That's a problem since they're what the whole story is about. Yes, I know this is a wild fantasy, but even within the reality of the book they didn't feel right to me.

I'm giving the book 4 stars though because I do believe that its target audience will enjoy it more than I did (I'm not a kid). It's not a bad book, it's just that, well, as my review title says, it could have been better. The retro-future Victorian sci-fi world was a lot of fun and hopefully future installments will keep all of the good elements from this book and improve on the less stellar ones (no pun intended). At least in the next book Myrtle (theoretically) won't be so annoying.

Almost forgot: some of the little inside jokes were fun, such as the interpolation of a bit of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars per Kindle edition, July 6, 2011
By 
C. Mangone (Kansas City, MO) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Larklight (Kindle Edition)
This book (this entire series really) is just pure fun. The plot, writing, setting, and characters are crisp, imaginative, and pretty much everything I never knew I always wanted. Not to mention the illustrations, which are amazing. In the paper version.

Unfortunately, the difference in quality between the paper illustrations and the Kindle ones is enough to make me dock a star. I know the Kindle can handle complex art. I jailbroke mine and have quite the collection as screensavers. However, Mr Wyatt's illustrations have so far appeared heavily pixelated. It's disappointing given how detailed and wonderful I know they are and could be.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philip Reeve and David Wyatt are back for another incredible book!, December 8, 2008
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I cannot express how much I love these books!
I am utterly impressed with Reeve's detailed, personable characters that are consistent and yet allowed the room to grow. The characters in this series are so delightful and varied... I am always anxious for Art's amusing and surprisingly insightful views on events, and Myrtle's delightfully tedious social commentary and lady-like instructions.

Larklight, the first book in the series, became an instant favorite, and while I loved Starcross (book two) I wasn't *quite* as attached to it as I was to Larklight. But, Mothstorm is just as good as Larklight, and honestly I can't think of a way to make either Larklight or Mothstorm more perfect!

In the third installment the Mumby family faces their strongest enemy yet and find their entire universe resting on their shoulders. (I don't know how Reeve will top that for another - hopefully another - book, but I have great faith that he will!) Mothstorm is not only action packed, busting with wit (in a fun, friendly way... nothing pretentious, only smart and amusing), but many times I found myself engrossed with the ethical and moral dilemmas the characters had to confront and touched by the troubles they had to go through and the strong relationships they have.

I was captivated from the beginning and curious until the end. And while I wasn't sure which way the story would end, or how it could possibly end in the way I was hoping, it did and it all made perfect sense (no fudging with the plots! Yay!).

Perfect for readers of any age. Reeve writes in a way that should captivate the young and the old. I can't recommend these books highly enough!
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars irritating & sexist (spoilers), September 28, 2011
By 
ellen marie (Tornado Alley, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Larklight (Paperback)
I had high hopes for this book. The premise was creative. The illustrations were delightful, and the title hints at a clever rendering of fantasy/adventure in space. This book could have been great. It's definitely action packed, with appropriately creepy villians, but there were enough problems with it to completely overcome these promising ingredients.

The first problem is that the victorian schtick gets old fast. If Reeves pulled back on it a bit, it would've been clever and funny. As it is, the over-the-top language is an overpowering distraction to not only the story line, but also the character development. Speaking of character development. . .

there isn't much. The characters are all painfully two-dimensional. Even the narrator can't evoke much sympathy. The character of Myrtle is unforgivable, even when the fact that the story is told from the point-of-view of her younger brother is taken into account. Myrtle is a helpless, bumbling female stereotype, completely incapable of taking care of herself in any way. She is concerned only with the superficial interests, such as clothing, boys, and manners. She spends a great deal of the book scorning practical behaviour, being saved by boys, and cleaning (of course! what else would someone in the middle of an adventure novel do? I remain doubtful that Reeves could have written a more offensive portrayal of an adolescent girl. Myrtle is helplessly whisked from place to place (usually by the male leads,) barely capable of understanding, let alone preventing, her own undoing over and over again. She is an obstacle to be overcome by the male leads, a nuisance and an irritation. Reeves really gives us nothing to like about her. Even in her own journal entries she comes acoss as shallow and foolish. As difficult as it is to believe that her brother might actually miss her in her absence, it is even more incredible to swallow the idea that the heroic Jack would fall for her. She does play a contrived, pivotal role in the climax of the story, but it is far too little and far too late. Also, it is framed almost as if her success were accidental, an anomaly of female capability. Myrtle exclaims, "I do not know how I managed to steer the automaton. . .I certainly could not do it again. It is a most unsuitable occupation for a young lady."

There were a few strong female characters (none of which were earthlings,) but there were few and far between. Had Reeves simply created a positive character here rather than a sexist stereotype, I would have loved this book. Had Myrtle and Art worked TOGETHER to win the battle, I would have loved it even more. It is fine for a book to portray a brother and sister not getting along, but it shouldn't be the default position. If there is a lack of harmony between siblings, it should be portrayed negatively, as a problem that should be overcome. This book made no bones about portraying Myrtle badly and portraying her relationship with Art badly. No resolution is offered. Myrtle is the same irritating, self-centered, shallow stereotype at the end of the book that she is in the beginning, and her relationship with Art is only barely transformed, if at all.

Another problem for me that could be overlooked on its own is the imperialist nature of the protagonists. Of course, much of the Jolly Ole England stuff is tongue-in-cheek, but the fact that the heroes of this story sought to destroy an entire species so that they could build their own universe seemed a bit unjust. What makes human civilization better than spider civilization? What right did anyone have to destroy the spiders' civilization in the first place? These ideas are touched on ever so briefly in the book, and then brushed off as if totally unimportant. I don't feel like that's a good way to portray conficts of interest. What do you do if two species (or groups of people for that matter) want the same bit of habitat? Which species is right? We are, of course! It should be ours, just because!

Overall, the concept is terrific. The action is great. However, the characters are weak, offensive, and stagnant, and the book provides a few unforgivably inappropriate representations of character, problem solving, and relationships. Disappointing. Considering the potential of this book, very disappointing.

For parents: There are several censored swear words. . .such as d---, written that way. There's a lot of heavy action, but nothing terribly graphic. A man is decapitated, but he turns out to be a robot. Most characters thought to be dead, turn out to be alive in the end. There is romance between Jack and Myrtle, but it is void of physical contact until the end in which, they "cuddle and kiss" rather innocently. As far as sexual content & violence, the book is fine. I can't reccomend young people read it because of what I consider negative social images.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, July 21, 2009
The third (and final?) installment in the Larklight series provides more of the fantastic steampunk Victorian sensibility made familiar to us in Larklight and Starcross. Honestly, this book could stand on it's own... but reading the first two in the series would be highly recommended. Some hilarious footnotes accompany the text, and as usual, David Wyatt's illustrations add much to the feel of the book. We are treated to a few of Myrtle's flowery diary pages, but Art is the main narrator.

It's Christmastime in the Year of Our Lord 1851 and the Mumby family has settled in for the holiday. They are interrupted by the minor problem of space-faring pudding worm, which disguises itself as a raisin and eats Christmas puddings from the inside out. The major problem is that Georgium Sidus (aka Uranus) has sent a distress call, and the whole family goes out to investigate.

The omnipotence of Art's mother, in actuality a Shaper, or disembodied alien being who created and continues to influence the solar system for the past several millennia, is neatly sidestepped. Encountering an alternate Shaper in another solar system, we see a glimpse of how the world would be if ruled by a despot, rather than a gentle being committed to letting her creations have free will.

The brave and intrepid Charity Cruet provides a great balance to the ever fussy and proper Myrtle. She and Art seem well-suited to each other. Space-pirate Jack Havock and Myrtle's romance shows signs of not being over yet, as they find themselves thrown together again.

The mysteries of Ssilissa's origins are finally revealed. The quiet girl-lizard pilot on Jack Havock's ship turns out to be a member of the Snilth race, from far beyond our galaxy. The Snilth recognize in Ssilissa's knobby tail the former royal family of their people, and abandon their warlike ways to settle on Pluto with her as their queen.

I thought the attempt to rescue Jack's family from the Venusian tree virus could have taken up a whole book on it's own, but everything is rather quickly taken care of in the final chapter. Fans of series will either be happy to see every loose end so neatly wrapped up, or (like me) wish that there were more. The book is coming out in paperback in November, so if you've missed it when it first came out, definitely consider adding this to your list of "must reads" And, it looks as if Larklight is in development as a movie to be released sometime in 2010, so I expect interest in this trilogy to continue.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It, Wonderfully Imaginative As Well As Amusing, February 6, 2008
By 
Barb Mechalke (in the lovely Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I originally borrowed this book from the library to read aloud to my, now six year old, daughter and I have to tell you the truth, I took it back with out reading it. It was too much for me, I couldn't do the accents right and the lingo and speech patterns were just too much for my brain that day.

So, I borrowed the audio book and let Greg Steinbruner read it to her instead. Which was wonderful for all of us; he did the lingo the accents and the speech patterns of all the different characters flawlessly.

And while she followed along looking at the fabulous illustrations in the book, we all fell in love with Larklight. It's a wonderfully imaginative and fantastic story of the giant spiders who attack Art and Myrtle Mumby and their home, Larklight, which is located in outer space, of course.

If your child likes Peter Pan and pirates she might like this story, though it has a little bit of a scary factor, I could see it scaring some children, there are gigantic spiders attacking after all.

But our kid loved this so much we bought her the sequel, Starcross, and read it to her ourselves. We got the hang of the accents and the lingo and all after repeatedly listening to Greg Steinbruner.

Last year our girl insisted on being Jack Havock, the hero from Larklight for Halloween. And her birthday party last month was planned around Larklight. So, it's really made quite the impression with her.

I highly recommend it and hope you love it as much as we do.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dauntless pluck indeed, January 20, 2008
Larklight is a giant Victorian style home orbiting around the moon. It is inhabited by the Mumby's, including 15 year old Myrtle, 12 year old Art, and Edward, their Father. Their mother, Amelia, died a few years back on a trip to the Earth's surface. Edward is studying the habits of Aetheric Icthyomorphs, a breed of fish and sea like creatures that live in space. One day a man named Mr. Webster from the Royal Xenological Society pays a call on Edward to see his work, but Mr. Webster turns out to be a giant white spider that has come to unleash an army of similar creatures onto Larklight. When Art awakens the house is encased in spider webbing and he and his sister have to make an escape, leaving their father behind in the flight.

Thus begins a tremendously adventurous feat of story telling. Reeve has outdone himself with this fine addition to the steam punk, space traveling genre. If Terry Gilliam, L. Frank Baum, George Lucas, and Jules Verne got together and had a lovechild I believe it would resemble this book. Oh, and throw in a bit of Herbert's "Dune" just for flavor. The thing is this, even with all of these influences "Larklight" is a story completely unique in it's own right. A rollicking tale of swashbuckling space pirates, intrigue, and mayhem makes this book a great read and the start of a thrilling new series. I can't wait to read the next one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, fast-paced fantasy, August 14, 2007
By 
SheilaJG (Redwood City, CA) - See all my reviews
Things I loved about this book - the original setting (space travel by Victorians!), the fantastic creatures who populate our very own solar system, the wonderful illustrations, the fast-paced action, and the witty writing. I'm not sure my son got as good a chuckle as I did when I read, "Ssilissa set about her work in the wedding chamber." He did, however, enjoy the line about how awful it would be if someone was sucked into space, unless it was Art's older sister, "in which case there would be great rejoicing and a half-holiday declared, et cetera, but ho hum."

Things I didn't like about this book - Myrtle, said older sister. She is insufferable and I couldn't understand how Art could end up missing her when they were apart, or how the pirate Jack could fall in love with her. We weren't really shown any redeemable qualities hidden beneath her strict Victorian snobbery. She faints at the sight of naked Martians, but has the spine to overcome evil spiders.

If you enjoy The Edge Chronicles, you'll love Larklight.
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Larklight
Larklight by Philip Reeve
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