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3.7 25
by Richard Harland

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Col lives on the Upper Decks of the juggernaut Worldshaker, a mobile city as big as a mountain. He has been chosen as next Supreme Commander – but then a girl Filthy escapee from Below appears in his cabin.

‘Don’t let ‘em take me!’ she begs.

Will he hand her over, or will he break all the rules? Col’s safe, elite world is about


Col lives on the Upper Decks of the juggernaut Worldshaker, a mobile city as big as a mountain. He has been chosen as next Supreme Commander – but then a girl Filthy escapee from Below appears in his cabin.

‘Don’t let ‘em take me!’ she begs.

Will he hand her over, or will he break all the rules? Col’s safe, elite world is about to fall apart.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sixteen-year-old Col Porpentine is the grandson of the supreme commander of the city-sized ship Worldshaker and has just been named his successor. But Col's rarified world is turned upside down by a girl named Riff, who is a Filthy--Worldshaker's lowest class, confined to the bottom deck as laborers. Col has always been told that Filthies are practically beasts, but Riff is smart, confident, and beautiful. In trying to help her, Col finds himself among the Filthies, who are severely mistreated but otherwise no different from him. Having learned Worldshaker's dark secrets, hidden for generations by his family, he must decide whether to help the Filthies. Harland's steampunk alternate history is filled with oppression, class struggle, and war, showing their devastation on a personal level through Col's privileged eyes. Like the behemoth Worldshaker itself, there's little subtlety in Harland's portrayal of a stuffy, imperial upper class subjugating a noble, abused underclass (complete with a Cockneyesque accent). But the writing is sharp and the story fast-paced, demonstrating that, despite his elite status, Col may be just as trapped as any Filthy. Ages 12–up. (May)
From the Publisher
"Aurealis Award winner Harland has a deft hand for balancing the icky and creepy...with fast plotting, family rivalries and dashing heroics. The climax provides a page-turning, pulse-pounding read."—Kirkus Reviews

"Readers looking for their next adventure in steampunk will most certainly find it here...Fans of Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines and Kenneth Oppel's Airborn will find themselves fully engrossed in the rich setting and thrilling action."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Col is naive for a sixteen-year-old. This is not unexpected taking into account he is spent his life studying Greek and Roman history and philosophy with a tutor while confined to quarters aboard the juggernaut Worldshaker (a vast, small-country-sized ship), on its perpetual voyage around the world. But one day Col's status quo changes, creating the catalyst for the Australian Harland's clever alternate history of the Decline and Fall of the British Empire. Queen Victoria II and her consort Prince Albert benignly rule over a realm consisting of inbred British bureaucrats, the servant/slave class of neutered ?Menials,' the "Filthies" imprisoned in the hold to feed the coal-burning boilers—and last but not least, the Aristocrats. The earth-shaking event that presages the beginning of the end? Col is named heir to his grandfather, Sir Morbus Porpentine, Supreme Commander of the ship that would forever be England. Alas, Col has developed a conscience. How he uses it to re-create his known world with the help of the girl Riff, an untouchable "Filthy," is the meat of this page-turning fantasy adventure. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
VOYA - Julia Robbins
Worldshaker is a decent read. Despite its cliches, it achieves decent levels of excitement, romance, and adventure, and creates a believable journey of self-discovery, as Col finds out unimaginable things about his family and city. While the main part of the novel is relatively well thought-out and evenly-paced, the high-speed ending lacks the same luster and believability. Coming to a rather abrupt halt, it leaves the reader wanting a more substantial conclusion. Reviewer: Julia Robbins, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Tappan Srivastava
In the beginning, Worldshaker grips you with its unique plot, but when it splits into many different storylines, things gets confusing. Although the writing flows well and the book is sometimes suspenseful, it lacks a straightforward plot. Col's character is well-developed, though, because he has many different thoughts as many different things happen to him, like school trouble and the surprises with Riff. Romance readers may like Worldshaker, but most others will feel disappointed. Reviewer: Tappan Srivastava, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Rebecca Moore
In an alternate-future Victorian society, sixteen-year-old Col Porpentine has never questioned his position: He is heir-apparent to Worldshaker, a city-sized "juggernaut" that has roamed the world on giant rollers, since decades of war brought environmental devastation to Europe. Then one night, a "filthy"—one of 2,000 supposedly sub-human slaves who keep Worldshaker running—hides in Col's room to evade capture, and Col's whole worldview turns upside down. Not only is Riff fully human, but she is a girl—and she and the other filthies are plotting revolution. As his involvement with the disturbingly attractive Riff grows, so does the amount of trouble Col is in, but he cannot seem to stop. When he comes to understand the shameful truth of his world, will he have the courage to stand up for what is right? Harland's love of his steampunk juggernaut is evident in all its meticulously crafted detail, from turbines to garden retreats (though a diagram would have made it easier for readers to picture). Unfortunately, the rest of the book lacks such creativity. The plot, while well-structured and action-packed, is formulaic. The stereotypical characters and their society are painted in extreme blacks and whites, almost to the point of parody. While this would be a good choice for steampunk lovers in search of an undemanding read, readers seeking more depth should try Philip Reeve's The Hungry City Chronicles (HarperTeen), Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series (HarperCollins), or Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan (Simon Pulse, 2009). Reviewer: Rebecca Moore
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—Hand-selected by his grandfather, chief advisor to Queen Victoria and supreme commander of the juggernaut Worldshaker, 16-year-old Col Porpentine has a glittering future mapped out for him as his grandfather's successor. But when an escaped Filthy, a 14-year-old girl named Riff, seeks refuge in his cabin, that future is shattered. Col discovers that his privileged life on the Upper Decks is only possible because of the labor performed by the Filthies of the Lower Decks, who work in appalling conditions to keep the large-as-a-city Worldshaker constantly on the move. Through Riff, Col discovers that the Filthies are not the subhuman bestial creatures he was led to believe they were. In fact, they are the descendants of Great Britain's lower classes who attempted revolution during the Napoleonic Wars, were overthrown, became "factory slaves" during mass industrialization, and ended up incarcerated on the juggernaut. Casting aside years of social conditioning and training, Col joins with Riff and the below-deck revolutionaries to change the course of his entire world. Three-dimensional characters, a strongly delineated setting and social hierarchy, and taut suspense make for a satisfying read. Well known in Australia for his speculative fiction, this award-winning author's terrific, fast-paced novel makes an excellent introduction for a new audience of American readers. Harland should find a place on the steampunk shelves right next to Scott Westerfeld and Kenneth Oppel.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK
Kirkus Reviews
Down Under steampunk in the tradition of Philip Reeve, moving cities and all. In the 1840s, Europe took to the road in massive juggernauts. Society froze, with the rich literally on top (the Upper Decks) and the poor Filthies relegated to a steaming, boiler- and piston-filled hell, brought above only to be surgically transformed into perfect Menials. Sheltered Col Porpentine, chosen successor to his Supreme Commander grandfather, lives aboard Worldshaker, where the mores of Victorian England have become only more entrenched in the last 150 years. When he meets a female Filthy escapee, Col finds that what is right may not be what is proper, and his future as commander may be destroyed by a rebellion he himself helps bring about. Aurealis Award winner Harland has a deft hand for balancing the icky and creepy-Col's grandmother starves Menials, then cries over them; schoolteacher Mr. Gibber indeed gibbers and prances most spectacularly-with fast plotting, family rivalries and dashing heroics. The climax provides a page-turning, pulse-pounding read (the dash of romance helps). Why hasn't Harland been published here before? (Steampunk. 12 & up)

Product Details

Bolinda Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


By Richard Harland

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Copyright © 2010 Richard Harland
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416995524


A sound brought Col out of a deep sleep. Something was happening out in the corridor. Urgent footsteps, orders and questions, the clangs of many doors opening and closing. Cabin by cabin the disturbance came closer.

His own cabin remained in darkness?until suddenly the door was flung open. Two menacing shapes stood silhouetted against the dim blue light of the corridor.

?Room light on!? came the order.

The figures sprang forward into the room, flourishing their weapons. Col switched on his bedside lamp.

In the warm yellow-pink glow the figures diminished to a pair of ordinary warrant officers. The pounding of Col?s heart eased. Warrant officers were responsible for security, and their heavy wooden batons were for his protection. But what were they doing in this part of the ship?

?Ah, Master Porpentine, isn?t it?? The senior officer fingered his gray walrus mustache. ?Sorry to disturb you, sir. We have to search your room.?

?What for??

Ignoring the question the officer went on. ?How long have you been awake, sir? Have you seen or heard anything unusual in the last few minutes??

Col raised himself higher on his pillow. ?Doors clanging. And you clumping along the corridor.?

?She must have run on,? the junior officer whispered to the senior. ?We?re wasting our time on this deck.?

?Who?s ?she??? Col demanded.

?A Filthy,? the junior blurted?then clapped his hand over his mouth. ?I mean ??

?Hold your tongue, Jull!? The senior officer swung his baton and gave Jull a cracking blow on the wrist. Col was shocked.

The senior officer turned to him again. ?You didn?t hear what he said, did you, sir??

?Yes, I did. What?s a Filthy doing on the Upper Decks??

?You wouldn?t want to know. My colleague got carried away.?

?I?ll forget about it if you answer my question.?

?She ?? The senior officer?s cheeks were red, and he was visibly sweating. ?Well, she escaped. That?s all I can say.?

He prodded Jull with his baton and pushed him toward the doorway. ?So, if you?ll just forget about it, thank you, sir ??

Out in the corridor he began an angry whispered conversation with his junior. Col caught the words ?grandson of Sir Mormus Porpentine,? then the door closed behind them, and they moved off down the corridor. More clanging doors, more questioning.

He still couldn?t believe it. A female Filthy running around on the Upper Decks? Inconceivable!

He looked round at his own safe, civilized bedroom. Green carpet, brown velvet curtains, cream wallpaper ? On the walls were framed pictures of the most dignified creatures: the wise owl, noble lion, and brave bear. A metal plate above the door was stamped with the name worldshaker and the date 1845, which was when Worldshaker had been constructed, one hundred and fifty years ago. The washstand, bookcase, and full-length mirror bore similar stamped plates. Only the massive wardrobe cupboard lacked a plate: It was an antique of carved oak from earlier times in the Old Country.

All proper, all normal?like the distant thrum of Worldshaker?s turbines, driving the great juggernaut forward. Time to go back to sleep.

He reached out to switch off the lamp?when a sudden thought set his heart pounding again. The sound that had woken him up wasn?t the clang of a door! Now that he thought back, there had been something else. Something much closer.

Don?t panic, he told himself. There was no one else in his room. Where could they hide? Unless in the cupboard ? or under his bed ?

He twisted over, lifted the fringed edge of the bedspread, and looked under his bed.

Two eyes looked back at him.

The female Filthy!

For ten long seconds he couldn?t move. So close, separated only by the thickness of his mattress! He was lying almost on top of her!

The eyes studied him, sizing him up.

Then she moved first. Quick as a whip she slid out and knelt at the side of his bed. Nostrils wide and flaring, hollow cheeks below sharp cheekbones. Her hair was a knotted tangle, black in some places and blond in others. Huge, burning eyes dominated her face.

He wriggled away and fell off the other side of the bed. Fighting free of sheets and blankets he stumbled to his feet.

She opened her mouth and spoke. ?Don?t let ?em take me.?

It wasn?t a grunt, but actual proper words! Pronounced in a rough and uncouth accent, but definitely words!

Col goggled. ?You can speak??

?Course I can speak. Why wouldn?t I??

?I thought ? I didn?t know Filthies could speak. Menials can?t.?

?Yeah, I heard about Menials.?

?We train Filthies and make them into Menials. Then they can understand human language.?

?Untrain ?em, more like. They could understand and speak, before.?

Col had no answer. His head was spinning; he couldn?t adjust.

She jumped up suddenly. She was all muscle and sinew, lithe and slight, quite unlike a Menial. Col had a general impression of darkness and dirtiness. She wore rags around her hips and torso, leaving her limbs shockingly naked. Her skin was streaked with smudges of soot and grease.

?See, they brought me up from Below to make me into a Menial.? She faced him across the bed. ?Fished me up on their hook and tried to march me to the Changing Room. But I give ?em the slip.?

Col shook his head. ?What do you mean, Changing Room??

?Where they change us. They torture our bodies and do horrible things to us.?

?Nonsense, there?s no such place. How would you know, anyway??

Col was quite sure that Upper Decks people would never do ?horrible things.? Mere Filthy ignorance! He had studied ethics with his tutor, so he knew torture was against proper moral principles.

He put on the kind of dignity he?d seen his elders assume. ?You?re lucky to have the chance to become a Menial. You?re too young to know what?s good for you.?

?I?m not young. I?m fourteen.?

?Well, I?m sixteen.?

?You oughta know about the Changing Room, then.?

It was hopeless trying to reason with a Filthy. And I shouldn?t even be trying, he told himself.

He turned to the door and raised his voice. ?Officers!?

She was across the room in a flash. He had always pictured Filthies as slow and brutish, but not this one. She opened the door a fraction, peeked out, then closed it again in a hurry.

?They?re still there,? she muttered.

He took a deep breath for a louder shout.

She flew back across the room and stood before him, hands clasped in appeal. ?Please!? The bravado had fallen away, leaving only abject terror. ?Don?t let ?em take me!?

Footsteps came tramping along the corridor.

?I?m scared,? she whispered, and stared at the door.

In that moment he remembered his own feeling of a few minutes ago. Seeing the two menacing figures in the doorway, flourishing their batons, ready to hit and beat ?

She made a dart for the antique cupboard. While Col stood openmouthed, she jumped inside and pulled the door shut behind her.

The footsteps came up level with his room?then went past. If it was the warrant officers, they hadn?t heard his call.

He didn?t think of calling out again. He was still strangely churned up inside, as though her fear of the officers had transferred itself to him.

He went over and spoke through the cupboard door. ?They?ve gone past.?

?Thank you,? said a muffled voice. ?Thank you.?

He didn?t want her thanks; all he wanted was time to think. He turned the key in the cupboard door.

?I?m locking you in,? he told her.

?Hey! No! You don?t need to do that.?

Col didn?t reply. He was sure she couldn?t escape: The wood of the cupboard was solid, and the lock was strong. She was his prisoner. But what was he going to do with her?

She rattled the door. ?C?mon, let me out. You won?t never see me again.?

He removed the key from the lock and retreated to his bed. She was still trying to talk through the door, so he climbed in between the sheets and pulled the pillow over his ear. The key stayed safe in his clenched fist.

? 2010 Richard Harland


Excerpted from Worldshaker by Richard Harland Copyright © 2010 by Richard Harland. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Richard Harland is the author of many fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels for young readers, including Worldshaker, Liberator, the Eddon and Vail series, the Heaven and Earth Trilogy, and the Wolf Kingdom quartet, which won the Aurealis Award. He lives in Australia. Visit him at RichardHarland.net.

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Worldshaker 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
PersimmonWarwick More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVED this book!! I loved the way richard harland made the characters and the way he described things in the story. the alternate history he created was amazing. I can't wait to read Liberator next!!!!
Digiprincess More than 1 year ago
I found this book boring I'm sorry to say. I felt it dragged. I hardly could finish it. I just didn't connect with or care about the characters.
Desire- More than 1 year ago
I'm Daniel Shedrow From South Newton School Corp. I have read a great book called WorldShaker by: Richard Harland. I thought that this book was great it grabbed my attention from the begging and I could not put this book down. This book is about a young 17 year-old boy named Colbert and his family is the number one family on the ship WorldShaker. His Grandfather is the Supreme Commander of the Ship. His Grandfather announces that Colbert will be the next Supreme Commander and he will take him under as his apprentice. But Col finds out what happens at the bottom of the ship and he wants to stop it. I encourage everyone to read this book you will to love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Co's grandmother starving Menial and then crying over them actually makes some twisted sense. Doing so allow to both satisfy her cruel, psychotic, racist, and most likely unfounded urges to hurt Menial, probably because they are of a lower class. Crying over them allows her to make her think that she is a good person and not a crazy monster because it convinces her that she "cares" about the starving Menials.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The greatest thing to be written in the English language thus far.
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Sylvia_Spider More than 1 year ago
This book had me hooked from page one. Riff is one of my favorite characters ever, she's strong, smart, and funny. Col is the main character and he is book smart but has no idea what is really going down behind the scenes of Worldshaker. His character grows through the book. This book is a little hard to follow in places because the ship (referred to as the juggernaut) was built in 1845 and the book takes place 150 years later but Queen Victoria II and Prince Albert are the monarchs. Some of the language seems out of place too. All in all this book was really enjoyable and I believe that anyone from a 12 year old to a 80 year old will enjoy this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
miss__Daye More than 1 year ago
On my nook, the description of one copy of this book is in german, while another (which is more expensive by roughly 4 dollars) is in english. If I buy the cheap one, will the book be in german? Also, the only sequel is in german.