“A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space”

I have just finished reading Larklight by Philip Reeve,  a fun space adventure intended for Young Adult readers. I shared this book with my 11 year old son B and we both enjoyed it. It is the middle of the 19th century and Sir Isaac Newton has not only figured out the properties of gravity, but has also used alchemy to discover the secret of the “chemical wedding” in an alembic chamber that can be used to power ships to other planets. Now the British Empire rules not only the Earth, but the other planets in the solar system as well. Art and his sister Myrtle are forced to flee their home, “Larklight”, in orbit of the moon when they are invaded by giant space spiders. They embark on a grand adventure, teaming up with a young space pirate Jack Havock and his band of alien misfits, to not only fight the spiders, but also save the planet earth and in the process learn great secrets about the origins of our solar system.
I though this was going to be an “alternative history” type of story with the main pretense being that space travel was invented during the Victorian era, but it turned out to have a twist in that line as it is written from a sensibility of that time period as well. The ships, which resemble wooden sailing ships more than rockets (and use canvas wings along with their engines),  do not travel in “space” but in the “aether” where the “air is thin” and numerous forms of wildlife, including space fish (or Ichthyomorphs), whales and giant squid roam. There are mushroom people and giant moths on the moon and, of course, canals on Mars. The combination of advanced technology in a victorian setting can not help but have a bit of “steampunk” feel to it, but I would not really apply that overused term to this book.
A fun romp for 11-15 year-olds, or adults with a sense of whimsy looking for a light read.