by Ian McDonald

Pyr, $16.95, 274 pages

Ian McDonald’s Planesrunner is the first in what I hope is a very long series of young adult science fiction novels.  Our hero, the aforementioned “planesrunner” is Everett Singh, the teenage son of a genius quantum physicist. Everett witnesses his father being kidnapped, only to discover that he’s been taken by a multi-planar, quasi-governmental agency, based on a parallel-earth called E-3. Ian McDonald does a wonderful job of establishing Everett’s normal kid street cred. Everett’s from London, likes Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, he watches Doctor Who, and he’s the goalkeeper for his school football team. He also has in his possession an entirely unique map, called the Infundibulum, which allows travellers to traverse any point in the multiverse. Everett has a half-baked notion to travel to E-3 and help his father escape from the evil clutches of our villain Charlotte Villiers. To do so, he must enlist the help of a zeppelin captain, and her pirate crew (!!!).  Has there ever been a book featuring zeppelin pirates that wasn’t amazing?

I find it completely refreshing that Everett loves and respects his father. I shouldn’t be shocked, but I am. Dads usually receive short-shrift in the greater scheme of YA fiction. Everett is a good, likable kid, who in moment of honest self-reflection realizes that his “plan” relies a bit too heavily on good luck. Planesrunner is very fast paced, with an eye towards quick wit, and post-steampunk flair. Everett makes for an endearingly reckless hero. I can’t wait for the next book in this series. Planesrunner, scheduled for release in December 2011, is an appealing alternative to the dystopian YA titles lining bookstore shelves these days.

Reviewed by Brad Wright