Planesrunner: Everness, Book 1



Clever science fantasy will appeal to Philip Pullman fans.

What parents need to know

Educational value

The central premise of Planesrunner, a multiverse of distinct universes, is based on current theories in cosmology and quantum physics. McDonald explains them with wit and clarity.

Positive messages

Although set in a mind-boggling multiverse, Planesrunner is largely concerned with the importance of family and the lengths to which people will go to protect the people they care about. Everett's quest to find his kidnapped father painfully separates him from his mother, younger sister, and everyone else he holds dear on our version of Earth, but he forges ahead, against fearsome odds. The scruffy crew of the airship Everness becomes a kind of second family, one also willing to make terrible sacrifices for the greater good.

Positive role models

Everett Singh is a competent but compassionate protagonist, focused on rescuing his missing father but also careful not to misuse the trust of those from whom he seeks help. He bravely participates in an epic battle aboard the airship Everness, not merely to save his own skin but to repay the kindnesses shown him by Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth and her foster daughter, Sen.


Everett spends most of the novel dodging the villainous Charlotte Villiers and the members of the sinister Order. Sometimes there are physical confrontations (including a no-holds-barred fist fight that leaves particpants beaten and bloodied), but the violence is far from graphic. A battle between two helium-filled airships results in major casualties for the losers. Perhaps the most unsettling weapon in the book is the jumpgun, which sends its victim into another universe without hope of return. Other weapons are used as well, and there's a sense of peril/danger throughout the book. A kidnapping sets the plot in motion.


Sen, the teenage foster daughter of Captain Sixsmyth, flirts with Everett, but the characters have little time to pursue their attraction, given the nearly nonstop danger and action.


Swearing is kept to a minimum, with only an "arse," a "tit" or a "bastard" here and there. Some of the inhabitants of Earth 3 speak a street dialect known as palari, which mixes influences from English, Cockney, Yiddish, Romani, Gaelic, and "polari," a secret gay language from our world. McDonald provides a glossary.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Planesrunner is an inventive, fast-paced science fantasy that's reminiscent of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, minus the emphasis on theology. Although not well advertised as such, it is the first installment of the Everness series. Expect plenty of peril and some violence (including use of weapons), as well as a fair bit of hard science-based theorizing.

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What's the story?

After witnessing the kidnapping of his physicist father from the streets of London, 14-year-old Everett Singh discovers a mysterious new app on his tablet. It turns out to be the Infundibulum, the most valuable object in the universe, a map of all parallel earths. Everett follows his father's trail into another universe, one where the villainous Charlotte Villiers and her creepy henchmen reign supreme. Aided by Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth and the crew of the airship Everness, Everett hatches a desperate plan to save his father.

Is it any good?


Ian McDonald is an award-winning writer of science fiction for adults, and he makes a smooth transition to the YA market with this opening installment in a new series. The action in PLANESRUNNER ramps up quickly and rarely diminishes, but McDonald takes care to do the necessary world-building that makes for a truly memorable yarn. His presentation of the steampunky Earth 3 is colorful and vivid, full of neat touches and unexpected details. The eccentric characters -- heroes and villains alike -- have enough reality and emotional complexity to be compelling. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how cosmology and quantum physics theories imply that an infinite number of parallel universes is possible. Does the notion that there might be multiple copies of you and your family spread across the cosmos intrigue or unnerve you?

  • Everett Singh's cultural background is Punjabi. Why do you think the author chose that background for his main character? Does the choice play into or against stereotypes?

  • Everett begins the book abandoning his home in London by searching for his missing father. Gradually, he builds a kind of alternative family with the crew of the airship Everness. How has the idea of family changed over time? What are the characteristics that define a family?

Book details

Author:Ian McDonald
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:December 6, 2011
Number of pages:269

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Kid, 12 years old January 6, 2012

Educational Sci-Fi stresses the importance of family

Planesrunner is a very fun piece of Sci-Fi, and focuses on current scientific thinking. There is some violence: the book opens up with Everett's dad getting kidnapped. Later, Everett is on the run from Charlotte Villiers, who wields a "jump-gun" which randomly sends people to another universe, which may or may not be habitable. There is a large battle between airships, in which many lives are risked, but Everett helps the fight, at the risk of his own skin. Sen at one point says she was watching Everett in the shower, and flirts with him throughout the book. The book stresses the importance of family; Everett goes on this entire quest to save his father, Captain Anastasia adopted Sen when her parents died, and the whole airship is like one big family. When Everett explains his quest, Sen and Captain Anastasia both help him, even though they could get killed.
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