Airbornby Kenneth Oppel
Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ship's eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there'd been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud. .
Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ship's eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there'd been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud. . . .
Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter that he realizes that the man's ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.
In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.
"Up Ship!" That is the cry of the Aurora crew as the airship takes flight over the Pacificus ocean. Thus begins this adventure of the skies filled with a luxury airship, dedicated crew, rich passengers, greedy pirates, mid-air rescue, shipwreck, and a dead man's discovery of a strange creature. Matt Cruse, a cabin boy who aspires to be sailmaker, is the likable protagonist in this captivating tale. This lighter than air cabin boy proves his mettle when he attempts and succeeds in rescuing an elderly man from a damaged hot air balloon stranded in the sky. Although the man ultimately dies, he leaves behind a journal with entries and sketches of fantastic sightings of flying creatures--half mammal and half reptile. One year later, his granddaughter Kate DeVries, is flying over the Pacificus on the Aurora to try to validate her grandfather's sightings. When this headstrong heroine joins forces with Matt Cruse, sparks fly. They outsmart her dreadful chaperone, defy ship regulations, and battle fierce pirates in moving toward Kate's goal. Matt is an engaging character. His heart is in the right place and he always tries to do the right thing, even in the face of difficult circumstances. When Captain Walken informs him that he has lost his promotion to sailmaker because of nepotism, Matt soldiers on, chin held high, no dereliction in duties. And when facing down pirates and the carnivorous cloud creature, Matt keeps his cool. This recording, which includes ten CDs and lasts ten hours, will leave listeners hanging on the edge of their seats. The voices of the actors bring the characters to life; they are full of enthusiasm, evil intent, haughtiness, and pride, as thesituation demands. The recording has such energy and will transport listeners to a different place and time as they get caught up in this good, old-fashioned, thrilling adventure story. The print version of the book, on which the recording is based, was selected as a Printz Honor Book. Reviewer: Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D.
Read an Excerpt
Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ship's eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there'd been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud.
The sky pulsed with stars. Some people say it makes them lonesome when they stare up at the night sky. I can't imagine why. There's no shortage of company. By now there's not a constellation I can't name. Orion. Lupus. Serpens. Hercules. Draco. My father taught me all their stories. So when I look up I see a galaxy of adventures and heroes and villains, all jostling together and trying to outdo one another, and I sometimes want to tell them to hush up and not distract me with their chatter. I've glimpsed all the stars ever discovered by astronomers, and plenty that haven't been. There're the planets to look at too, depending on the time of year. Venus. Mercury. Mars. And don't forget Old Man Moon. I know every crease and pockmark on that face of his.
My watch was almost at an end, and I was looking forward to climbing into my bunk, sliding under warm blankets and into a deep sleep. Even though it was only September and we were crossing the equator, it was still cool at night up in the crow's nest, parting the winds at seventy-five miles an hour. I was grateful for my fleece-lined coat.
Spyglass to my face, I slowly swept the heavens. Here at the Aurora's summit, shielded by a glass observation dome, I had a three-sixtyview of the sky around and above the ship. The lookout's job was to watch for weather changes and for other ships. Over the Pacificus, you didn't see much traffic, though earlier I'd caught the distant flicker of a freighter, ploughing the waves toward the Orient. But boats were no concern of ours. We sailed eight hundred feet above them.
The smell of fresh-baked bread wafted up to me. Far below, in the ship's kitchens, they were taking out the first loaves and rolls and cinnamon buns and croissants and Danishes. I inhaled deeply. A better smell than this I couldn't imagine, and my stomach gave a hungry twist. In a few minutes, Mr. Riddihoff would be climbing the ladder to take the watch, and I could swing past the kitchen and see if the ship's baker was willing to part with a bun or two. He almost always was.
A shooting star slit the sky. That made one hundred and six I'd seen this season; I'd been keeping track. Baz and I had a little contest going, and I was in the lead by twelve stars.
Then I saw it.
Or didn't see it. Because at first all I noticed was a blackness where stars should have been. I raised my spyglass again and, with the help of the moon, caught a glimpse.
It was a hot air balloon, hanging there in the night sky.
Its running lights weren't on, which was odd. The balloon was higher than us by about a hundred feet, drifting off our starboard bow. The burner came on suddenly, jetting blue flame to heat the air in the balloon's envelope for a few seconds. But I couldn't see anyone at the controls. They must have been set on a clockwork timer. Nobody was moving around in the gondola. It was deep and wide, big enough for a kind of sleeping cabin on one side, and plenty of storage underneath. I couldn't ever recall seeing a balloon this far out. I lifted the speaking tube to my mouth.
"Crow's nest reporting."
I waited a moment as my voice hurtled down through the tube, one hundred fifty feet to the control car suspended from the Aurora's belly.
"Go ahead, Mr. Cruse."
It was Captain Walken on watch tonight, and I was glad, for I much preferred him to the other officers. Some of them just called me "Cruse" or "boy," figuring I wasn't worth a "mister" on account of my age. But never the captain. To him I was always Mr. Cruse, and it got so that I'd almost started to think of myself as a mister. Whenever I was back in Lionsgate City on shore leave and my mother or sisters called me Matt, my own name sounded strange to me at first.
"Hot air balloon at one o'clock, maybe a half mile off, one hundred feet up."
"Thank you, Mr. Cruse." There was a pause, and I knew the captain would be looking out the enormous wraparound windows of the control car. Because it was set well back from the bow, its view of anything high overhead was limited. That's why there was always a watch posted in the forward crow's nest. The Aurora needed a set of eyes up top.
"Yes, I see it now. Well spotted, Mr. Cruse. Can you make out its markings? We'll train the light on it."
Mounted at the front of the control car was a powerful spotlight. Its beam cut a blazing swath through the night and struck the balloon. It was in a sorry state, withered and puckered. It was leaking, or maybe the burner wasn't working properly.
"The Endurance," I read into the speaking tube.
She looked like she'd endured a bit too much. Maybe a storm had punctured her envelope or bashed her about some.
And still no sign of the pilot in the gondola.
Along the length of the speaking tube I heard tinny murmurings from the control car as the captain conferred with the bridge officers.
"It's not on the flight plan," I heard Mr. Torbay, the navigator, say.Airborn EPB. Copyright © by Kenneth Oppel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
KENNETH OPPEL is the Governor General’s Award–winning author of the Airborn series and the Silverwing Saga, which has sold over a million copies worldwide. His most recent novels are The Boundless and The Nest. Twice nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, he lives in Toronto with his wife and three children.
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