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<DIV>As in the best of Jules Verne or Albert Sanchez Pinol, <i>The Balloonist</i> is a gripping and surreal yarn, chilling and comic by turn, that brilliantly reinvents the Arctic adventure.<br><br> It is July 1897, at the northernmost reach of the inhabited world. A Swedish scientist, an American journalist, and a young, French-speaking adventurer climb into a wicker gondola suspended beneath a huge, red-and-white balloon. The ropes are cut, the balloon rises, and the three begin their voyage: an attempt to become the first people to set foot on the North Pole, and return, borne on the wind. Philip Pullman says in his foreword: "Once I open any of MacDonald Harris’s novels I find it almost impossible not to turn and read on, so delightful is the sensation of a sharp intelligence at work. In The Balloonist , we see all of his qualities at their best."</div>