Book review

Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel (2005)

Matt Cruse is back in this brilliant sequel to the sensational action adventure story Airborn. Not just a cabin boy any more though. After his exploits on board the cruise ship Aurora with the rich and determined Kate de Vries, he has been accepted as a student at the Airship Academy in Paris. And Paris is where Kate has settled herself too. She's studying at the university.

Well, things certainly do happen to Matt Cruse, even when he's out on a training flight on board the Flotsam. She's a rough old tub with an ill-tempered captain and sullen crew, and they get into serious trouble when they try to beat a tropical typhoon by flying above it into dangerously high altitudes. That's bad enough for starters, but it's what they see while they're up there that really sets this adventure alight:

There could be no one in the control car who hadn't heard of the Hyperion. She was a ship of legend, like the Marie Celeste, or the Colossus - vessels that had set out from harbour, and never reached their destinations. The Hyperion was rumoured to be carrying great wealth. She may have crashed, or been pillaged by pirates. But no wreckage was ever found.

Sure enough, they've stumbled on the Hyperion:

An enormous engine pod, its paint stripped away by the elements, glistening with frost.
A control car almost entirely encased in ice, light flashing from a cracked window.
Wind-blighted letters barely visible on her flayed skin: Hyperion.
'It's her,' I breathed.
It sent a chill through me just to see her. How could she still be up there, so high? What spectral crew had been guiding her across the skies for forty years?

Well, the Flotsam is damaged and they have to limp back to port as best they can. So the race is on to get back up into the skies and salvage the Hyperion. It seems like it's every man for himself, and Matt has one big advantage. He has the co-ordinates of Hyperion's last known position because he was the navigator on board Flotsam.

Of course, Kate de Vries wouldn't dream of letting Matt Cruse off on an adventure without her, but they need to put together a whole team for this project...and swashbuckling Captain Hal Slater and the beautiful Roma girl Nadira provide endless opportunities for romantic mishaps along the way.

Great adventure, great people! Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

It's a sequel. The books do stand alone, but much more satisfying to read in the right order:

You could also take a look at this brilliant series by Philip Reeve:

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