Airborn by Kenneth Oppel is the first of the Matt Cruse series. Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the luxury airship Aurora. He was born on an airship (a rare occurance) and his father died working on the Aurora. Matt, now, desperately wants to have the career taken from his father but a newly appointed Academy graduate has taken the job of assistant sail maker.
Now into the mix of this coming of age story of a cabin boy learning a hard lesson, add a heaping scoop of Robert Louis Stevenson pirates with a heathy dollop of the lost world exploration of a Jules Verne story. To top it off, frost it with a plucky young woman with a thirst for adventure.
All of this adventure is set in an alternate world. Oppel does a wonderful job of fleshing out this world, starting with the recognizable (the destination — Australia). Then he adds in the details, new names for oceans, a mango scented element needed for lighter than air travel. And finally he tosses in the unexplored — creatures even the people of the Pacificus don't know about.
As it happens, I listened to the audio — twice. It was produced by Fullcast Audio. While I appreciate their desire to turn a ripping yarn into a theatric production, I think they often go too far. Matt Cruse who serves both as narrator and protagonist, suffers from the usual problem of these Fullcast Audio performances: too much earnestness.
The written word has moments of rest, of the quietly mundane — passages that should be read quietly, and perhaps with some flatness of voice. NEVER can one of these performers do that. I suspect they are directed to act each and every word with complete heart and soul. It comes off as insincere, melodramatic and sometimes slap worthy.