four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
57-Mar-Apr-2012
By: 
Ian McDonald
user_rating: 
0

A-PlanesrunnerAward-winning science fiction writer Ian McDonald's previous novels and short fiction include Desolation Road (1988), River of Gods (2004), Brasyl (4 of 5 Stars Selection July/Aug 2007), Cyberabad Days (4 of 5 Stars Selection July/Aug 2009), and The Dervish House (4 of 5 Stars Selection Nov/Dec 2010). Planesrunner, McDonald's young adult debut and the first volume in the Everness series, explores the multiverse and sets the table for future volumes.

The Story: When a prominent quantum physicist is kidnapped on a London street, it's up to his 14-year-old son, Everett, to guard the most valuable object in the universe--the Infundibulum, a map showing the location of a nearly infinite number of parallel earths, each with its own reality. But powerful and nefarious forces want the object for their own, and Everett becomes a "planesrunner," going to ground in an alternate--and in many ways alien--London (called "E3") to keep the Infundibulum safe. With the help of some newfound friends and an airship, he might even be able to rescue his father.
Pyr. 269 pages. $16.95. ISBN: 9781616145415

Boing Boing 4.5 of 5 Stars"Planesrunner is smashing adventure fiction that spans the multiverse without ever losing its cool or its sense of style. Ian McDonald is one of the greats of science fiction and his young adult debut is everything you could hope for: romantic, action-packed, wildly imaginative and full of heart." Cory Doctorow

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars"There are a lot of thought-provoking ideas on the nature of family and loyalty and imaginative, science-y details in Planesrunner that make this alternate London recognizable but also a bit off and oddly compelling. Whether it's the air ships floating above the city or its inhabitants, whose dress seems inspired by Captain Hook, Planesrunner is a visually, if densely, written tale of sci-fi suspense that ponders big questions with wonderment and heart." Susan Carpenter

SF Site 4 of 5 Stars"The villains, especially Charlotte Villiers, may chew the scenery a bit much--this is one way in which the book differs from McDonald's recent adult novels, which eschew full-blown evil villains--but they still hold the interest. I think this is one of the best YA novels of the year, and I'm eagerly anticipating the sequels." Rich Horton

Intergalactic Academy 2.5 of 5 Stars"The prose in Planesrunner has a rich, lyrical quality. ... As I luxuriated in McDonald's undeniably strong stylistics, I soon found myself floundering again." Phoebe North

Critical Summary

What makes Ian McDonald's science fiction so readable--closely observed environments (his novels and short fiction are often set in gritty, Third World near futures) and quirky characters--comes through in his debut young adult effort. An alternate London chockfull of steampunk trappings and populated by some deliciously evil villains is the recipe for an instant hit. Despite his sure-footed storytelling, McDonald takes a while to find the voice and the motivation of his hero Everett Singh, though that's a minor quibble in this otherwise big-hearted take on identity, family, and our place in the universe.