By Scott A. Cupp
This is the 180th in my series of Forgotten Books.
I have been a fan of Ian McDonald ever since his first book Desolation Road was published by Bantam Books in 1988. It was an amazing book about a future Mars. Soon other novels followed, including Out on Blue Six and King of Morning, Queen of Day and the short story collection Empire Dreams. I knew from the beginning that I would be buying all his works and enjoying them for years to come.
In late 2011, Pyr Books published Planesrunner. I became aware of it because of the wonderful John Picacio cover, and I got my copy from John himself. It followed closely with the second in the series, Be My Enemy, and in 2014, Empress of the Sun continued the tale. The two subsequent books also sported Picacio covers.
The series is a wild conglomeration of steam punk and space opera and young adult coming of age. The hero of the series is a young Punjabi boy living in London named Everett Singh. His father is a quantum physicist who has been working on some very odd ideas when he is suddenly kidnapped right in front of Everett. The kidnappers seem to have vanished but Everett receives an odd email that leads to the discovery of the Infundibulum, a device that allows him to hop worlds. The kidnappers are members of the Plenipotentiary of the Ten Worlds, the ten alternate Earths which run things. Charlotte Villiers is the villain of the piece, a Plenipotentiary of one of the Earth’s. Everett’s earth is Earth 10.
When Everett operates the Infundibulum he finds himself on an Earth with no fossil fuels, where airships rule the skies. He eventually finds himself aboard the airship Everness, commanded by Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adoptive daughter Sen and a wild crew.
But Everett soon finds out that with the Infundibulum he is not limited to the 10 Earths. The whole of the Multiverse is available to him.
While Everett searches for his father, Charlotte searches for Everett and the Infundibulum. Each of the Earths contains variations of the inhabitants of the other Earths. So there is an alter of Everett Singh on each of the ten worlds, as well as of his father and friends and Charlotte. Sometimes these alters are of the opposite sex.
There are weird alien races which react like computer viruses (the Nahn) or create highly modified versions, like Everett M. Singh in Empress of the Sun and Be My Enemy, who comes to our Earth bringing the Nahn.
And there are the Jiju, dinosaurs that did not die out in the comet disaster and therefore have a 65 million year evolutionary advance on humans in their universe. They live on a diskworld with a captive sun. The construction of this world makes Niven’s Ringworld look like a kiddie park. All the Jiju want is to get the Infundibulum and obliterate their competitors on their world and throughout the Multiverse. Cold blooded dinosaur space killers! What more could you want?
McDonald has developed the culture of the airships along gypsy terms and created the Palari language which combines terms and ideas from many other societies. A glossary is included in each volume.
Everyone in the books is pursuing something. Everett wants his father. Charlotte wants the Infundibulum and Power (with the capital P). Sen wants Everett and to work on the Everness and to please her mom. Captain Anastasia wants to take care of her ship and crew and to see whatever it is Everett can do to get to his father, pretty much in that order.
These are fun books with lots of action and adventure. The story through the three published volumes is not complete, which I disliked, but that’s pretty much the only thing I disliked about them. There does not seem to be any information about a fourth volume, but we can hope.
Check out the first one, then settle in for all three. Super advanced dinosaurs are quite a bit of fun — and nastiness.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.