"The Aviator" puts us in an imaginatively envisioned near-future, with the world divided into small almost-isolated enclaves of wildly differing philosophies, moralities, technology levels and capabilities. The ostensible cause of the collapse of normal civilization is chaos associated with global warming, but the details of that collapse are for the most part missing here, aside from one soberly-drawn rescue mission to a fire-storm-ravaged Australia. How the world and the various characters portrayed got into the state they are in in this book is largely a mystery, but given those premises Renowden does a splendid job of weaving together an exciting story of exploration and discovery. His protagonist with his airship visits almost every continent from his New Zealand base, finding beacons of hope and enlightenment and at the same time doing battle with radical fringes on all sides, from anti-technologists to frontiersmen to high-tech televangelists to Islamic fundamentalists. At times the novel reminded me of some of the ambience and free-wheeling twists and turns of Neal Stephenson's novels - "Snow Crash" and "Anathem" particularly.
Advocates of the "Heartland Institute" and libertarians of the "Atlas Shrugged" variety will probably not appreciate Renowden's portrayal of their ultimate ends, but he has at least as much fun with radical environmentalists. His sympathies seem more clearly to lie with the Singularitarians - but even there Renowden introduces conflicts and concerns (particularly associated with the behavior of the airship's Artificial Intelligence) which suggest a deep thoughtfulness about what really matters in life and in our future. The novel ends with a number of loose ends (where is the airship's owner? What is going on in Europe?) that anticipate a sequel - I'm eagerly looking forward to it!