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Having explored the far reaches of the skies, Matt Cruse is about to fly beyond them -- into the unknown expanse of space.

Yup. Space. Kenneth Oppel's airship trilogy takes a distinctly sci-fi turn in the final volume, "Starclimber" -- it's focused on the wondrous expanses outside Earth's, and the dangers that go with its first pioneers. It's a little top-heavy with Matt's romantic woes, but Oppel does a truly brilliant job mingling sci-fi, adventure and a sense of lyrical wonder.

Matt Cruise has been working as a tug captain at the Celestial Tower, but he's offered a wildly different job: to become one of the first astralnauts on a space mission.

Unfortunately as he undergoes the grueling training, Matt is distracted -- Kate (who is heavily involved in the suffragette movement) is being pressured to make a "good match" with a rich man. And while both of them are included on the cable-climbing "Starclimber," Matt is horrified when he discovers that Kate's parents have forced her to make a choice -- get engaged or give up outer space.

The specially selected team succeeds in leaving the Earth behind, only to find that space has its own variety of dangers -- including mysterious glowing objects, monstrous space creatures, asteroids, and the threat of a bombing from the fanatical Babelites. But the worst is yet to come, when Matt finds that he must repair a delicate piece of equipment... or the entire expedition will be destroyed.

Just as Oppel's "Airborn" and "Skybreaker" asked what if airships had dominated the skies, "Starclimber" explores the idea of a more technologically advanced Victorian age where space travel is a realistic possibility. He even touches on some timeless topics, such as prejudice against women's abilities (and Kate's rebuttals) and fanaticism (the Babelites, believing it angers God to venture into space).

And despite the slow unfolding of the story, Oppel keeps it interesting with his a lovely prose style (the darting lights and haunting space "music"), and the detailed descriptions of space training and technology. About halfway through it suddenly tightens into a taut action story, with lots of space rescues and bizarre alien life forms.

And though a bunch of bickering strangers in space sounds boring, he injects little moments of comedy into the story ("There is no energy in Paris, no dynamism. An artist like myself must move on. Also, I set fire to the French president"). If there's a flaw, it's that the subplot about Matt and Kate's fragmenting relationship weighs a little too heavily during life-threatening crises.

Matt and Kate have grown up a great deal, but are still very much the same -- she's a impetuous, strong-willed and determined scientist, while he's a lovable, humble pilot who just wants the skies and Kate (although he suffers from some thorny jealousy and doubts about her). The supporting cast is a pretty fun bunch as well, particularly the prickly Miss Karr, pompous windbag Sir Hugh, and the paternal Captain Walken.

"Starclimber" takes everything that was good about Oppel's steampunky fantasy books, and launches them into orbit. A solid finale for a brilliant trilogy, and definitely a good ending for Matt and Kate.
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on June 21, 2012
Matt Cruse is back in a big way and with Starclimber Oppel transfers his boy adventure/action adventure pulp series firmly into the world of golden age Science Fiction as Cruse and his fellow Canadians (Yes that's right Canadians) become the first men and Women in space.

This series is just good fun all the way through and should be pleasing to both adults and children, it is certainly worth the $5.99 price tag and I hope everyone gives it a try. I noticed a few other reviewers bring up the switch to science fiction as well and I feel it necessary to point out that for those interested in only modern "hard science" in their SciFi this story will no doubt seem trite and silly. But as I stated in my earlier review of "Skybreaker" it's my contention that this series is an attempt by Oppel to write his own version of golden age pulps so don't be surprised if some of the things that happen in this book defy the laws of physics as we now know them. Still I hope everyone gives this series a try as I had a tone of fun reading it.
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on July 8, 2012
Matt Cruse and Kate DeVries join the crew of the Starclimber on man's first mission into space. Ascending a cable to its zenith in orbit around the earth, they must contend with their own stormy relationship in the midst of a steady stream of life-threatening crises.

Author Kenneth Oppel's alternate version of the 1800's continues to provide fertile ground for his imagination. As in the preceding installments of this trilogy, he presents compelling characters, a rousing adventure, and populates the heavens with more intriguing life forms. Each book in the series has taken our heroes even higher than the previous installment, so I suppose we won't be seeing any more of Matt and Kate unless the author is plotting how they might reach the moon via steampunk technology. If so, I'll be there.
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on July 17, 2009
Third in the series, and I would be sad if it were the last book in this world that Kenneth has created. I've come to really like Matt and Kate, and would like to read more of their adventures.

This story follows Matt and Kate as they continue on even higher, up to space this time.

The writing is as good as the first two books. It's a fun page-turner that I think appeals to young and old. The science is getting a bit more far-fetched than in the previous two books, but that is okay, since the story is so much fun.
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on March 13, 2009
This is the third book in an alternate reality created by world-renowned Kenneth Oppel. In this book, the airplane has not been developed but flying machines, gliders, blimps and balloons are the mode of air transportation. The first two books Airborn and Skybreaker have won almost every Canadian children's literary award. Combined they have won: Governor General's Award, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award (twice), Red Maple Award (twice), Michael L Printz Honor Book (ALA). They have won 26 awards and been nominated for another 7. The interesting thing is, this was the first book in this series to come across my desk and was read as an independent story. It stands strong on its own and left me wanting to read the first two.

This story is part of the saga of Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries, two young people in love and pursuing higher education to realize their dreams - Matt of becoming a captain on an airship and Kate of becoming a world-class scientist and researcher, especially zoology in the stratosphere. It is also the story of the race to space. The French are trying to build a tower into space, and Matt and Kate are called home to Canada, to be part of Canada's attempt. Kate is outright invited to be a scientist on the Mission. Matt must go through a grueling training regime and compete with over a hundred people hoping to be an astronaut aboard the Canadian ship Starclimber. Matt is a skilled Skysailor but can he compete with so many older and more experienced men?

The story is part science fiction, part romance, and part social commentary. Oppel does an excellent job of weaving the different elements into a cohesive tale that is compelling and addicting. You reach a point in the book where you do not want to put it down. The greatest strength of the story is the incredible characters that seem so real, and the powerful narrative technique used by Oppel that makes you feel like you are there and part of the action. The story has a great pace that picks up speed as it moves along and finishes like a runaway train dragging us along with it, racing to the end.

This is a great novel and like the others in the series will probably win numerous awards.

(First Published in Imprint 2009-03-13.)
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on July 7, 2014
This is the third book in Oppel's Matt Cruse-Kate De Vries series. It is definitely in the category of "Boys/Girls Adventure" book, but certainly updated for young teenagers today. My son, age 12, has read all three books in the trilogy and loved each and everyone of them...even with the more sophisticated relationship between the protagonists in this current novel. I have also read all three and think this last one is actually the most sophisticated and developed.

The series takes place in an alternative early 1900s where France and Canada are the dominant nations and the technology is steam-ish punk. The first novel is about air pirates, the second about high altitude salvage (and more pirates) and this third about the race into space. The plot is well-developed, the characters believable and the pacing is fast, but with lots of lovely little details.
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on June 17, 2014
Book three in a series my sons and I have absolutely loved! Great voice, unique world. Excellent adventure set just above Earth's sky in space and incorporating old technology in a way that feels fresh and new. Clean youth adventure.
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on January 13, 2014
I do NOT like reading. Never have not sure I ever will, but I have read this book 2 times already! Love this while series! Have yet to find a book series I like more. BUY IT NOW! Would buy 3 more times!
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on August 6, 2011
I have one child that will not read and he actually read the series. The other children read the books in a few days. This series is great for boys and girls. We used the whole series for AR (accelerated reader) requirements. I have even recommended it to other adults and they all have enjoyed the series.
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on April 23, 2016
The Airborne trilogy had me hook, line, and sinker on the first page. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in adventure laced with romance, but mostly adventure! I'll even admit that I missed the bus because I was reading this book😉. Enjoy reading😁📚
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