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Planesrunner by Ian McDonald


by Ian McDonald

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A decent YA novel from Ian McDonald, whose protagonist finds himself on a quest for his lost father, slipping between universes to a steampunk parallel reality, though London remains London whichever universe it is in. It was interesting to read this at the same time as Nina Allan's The Rift, which deals with similar themes in a very different way. ( )
  nwhyte | Mar 25, 2018 |
I haven't read much by Ian McDonald but what I had previously read by him had been dense, complex and highly imaginative science fiction which had won him great critical acclaim. This book marked a departure in that it was the first in a lighter science fiction/steampunk trilogy aimed more for the YA market. As such the plot was more linear and straightforward, the narrative told from a single character's POV and the language a tad simpler than the dense, rich stew the author usually serves up.

The story follows young Everett Singh, the son of a physicist working on the cutting edge of quantum mechanics and something of a prodigy himself. After his father is kidnapped he receives a mysterious email containing an app that is the key to using Heisenberg gates to travel to alternate earths in alternate universes. Everett will need to figure out how to use this can figure out how to use them if he is to rescue his father and he will need help from whatever allies he can find on the alternate earth he has to travel to.

The story is enjoyable and the main character a compelling voice. The action unfolds in a stately fashion which I personally didn't mind as the author takes the time to build up the world Everett travels to in interesting and believable ways. Though I can't help but feel that some of the ideas and language will be rather complex for the intended target audience but I may be wrong. The ending is satisfying but also with the promise of more (and perhaps more wide-ranging in the multi-verse) adventures that lie ahead. Overall a decent read though not an outstanding one. ( )
  iftyzaidi | Feb 16, 2018 |
Planesrunner is sci-fi author Ian McDonald's first foray into YA, and it's pretty good. I've only read his River of Gods and Cyberabad Days, and it was great to see a different writing style and world.

Everett Singh's father has been kidnapped right before his eyes, but no one believes him and the police seem strangely uninterested. Everett is convinced that the kidnapping is related to his father's groundbreaking research, and since no one else seems to want to, it's up to him to rescue his father... even if it means leaving the reality he's lived in all his life.

McDonald is great at building science fiction worlds - the parallel realities in Planesrunner are really cool. Each version of Earth that our Earth has made contact with is different; shaped by a single historical change. For example, in the Earth that Everett spends most of the book in, oil was never discovered, and all technology is powered by electricity. That means airships but no planes, plastics being much rarer, and no space programmes.

Everett is a pretty good protagonist. He's average in many ways, but he's a really good cook and extremely smart, both of which he uses to great effect. Sometimes he's too much of a Mary Sue (he figures out a puzzle that stumps his father's colleagues in a day or so), but he's still pretty lovable. The rest of the characters are also fun to read about - there's Anastasia Sixsmyth, the airship captain, Sen, the bratty navigator, and the extremely well put together but evil Charlotte Villiers.

The plot confused me a bit - notwithstanding the Infundibulum being an iPad app (so Everett's dad is a iPad programmer as well as being a theoretical physicist?), why was Everett's dad's kidnapping conducted in public, if the authorities wanted it covered up? I also would've liked a bit more planesrunning in the book. I was hoping to explore more than one of the parallel Earths, but that only happens in the sequels. I was a bit disappointed when I found out what the Everness was, since I know the series is called "Everness". I like airships, but I like alternate realities more, so I wish the focus wasn't on so much on the adventures of the airship and her crew.

Those are small nitpicks though. Overall, I enjoyed Planesrunner and I'm looking forward to revisiting the world and characters with Be My Enemy. ( )
  kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
I'm trying to find the right words to describe my awe while reading this book... Planesrunner has been on my bookshelf for a long time, I just saw few very good reviews from the blogs I trust and bought it. If not for my book buying ban, it would have stayed gathering dust there for much much longer...

The book starts with Everett Singh, a teenage son of a quantum physicist seeing his dad being kidnapped on the streets of London. Police treating the case as of missing person and don't believe that Everett is telling the truth. Desperate boy receives a strange file from his dad's email account and from then on his life is never the same again.

Apparently, his father has been working on mapping parallel universes and a power group following his research snatched him to work only for them not for the good of all. Now it's up to his very talented son to jump through the gates and save everyone.

This book starts as sci-fi, incredibly fascinating, with all the theories of parallel worlds and human beings just like you inhabiting them, but it quickly evolves into an electropunk as Everett himself calls it when he jumps to the world in which he thinks his father is held hostage.

The London he sees runs on electricity and is full of magnificent airships. It's very colourful, reminds you of late Victorian era, full of spicy new language that Airish (airship sailors?) use to communicate and strange new customs.

Very quickly Everett gets taken under care of a young, bold teenage air pilot, Sen, the daughter of Anastasia Sixsmyth, the captain of Everness and starts plotting how to get his father back with the help of the friends he is acquiring.

The world-building is incredibly gorgeous (the closest comparison that comes to mind is Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook), the smells, the clothes, the food, the unique nanotechnology, the language, the mannerisms, the prejudice against Airish, - it's all thought through.

Then there is Everett, fabulous Punjabi teen, science geek, footballer, Doctor Who aficionado and a talented chef. His character is written with much love, and really comes to life.

I can say the same about courageous Sen. The women in this book are represented just as equally as men. Sen, who knows all the darkest alleys around Hackney Port and bribes her way out of trouble flashing her unique Tarot cards at people.

Of course there is a villainess with too much make up on, an evil plot of world(s) domination, an airships duel and lots of courage, gaiety and heartbreak. According to Poloni, Airish language, this book is fantabulosa! As in fabulous. ( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
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When fourteen-year-old Everett Singh's scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves a mysterious app on Everett's computer giving him access to the Infundibulum--a map of parallel earths--which is being sought by technologically advanced dark powers that Everett must somehow elude while he tries to rescue his father.… (more)

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