A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Planesrunner, the first installment of the Everness series, is an inventive, fast-paced science fantasy that's reminiscent of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, minus the emphasis on theology. Expect plenty of peril and some violence (including use of weapons), as well as a fair bit of hard science-based theorizing.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.