Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Sky Run, by Alex Shearer

Sky Run is set in a world where there is no real Earth, just pockets of land scattered around in space, floating above the sun. Sky Sharks, Sky Fish and other bizarre creatures ride the thermal currents of the sky, hunting for food whilst nomadic humans cruise in their boats hunting for clouds and t
he valuable water that they produce.

Orphans Martin and Gemma live with their 120 year old Great-Great-Aunt Peggy and their lazy Sky Cat Botcher on a small floating lump of rock far out in the outlying settlements, days and days away from civilisation. Not wanting her family to grow up in ignorance and isolation and being a believer in education, socialisation and in self-improvement, Peggy enrols her charges in school over on City Island. Martin and Gemma are less than enthusiastic about such a huge journey and the prospect of school but board their "Gran's" ancient Sky Runner anyway.

Their dangerous journey takes them through unchartered sky, past isolated Islands populated with damaged and dangerous people (not least a deranged axe-murdering Motel owner) and into some tricky situations with the local Sky-life. Sky pirates, menacing and oppressed slave populations, frantic Rat catchers and floating minefields also find themselves themselves in the path of the rickety Sky Runner and its steadily increasing crew. Peggy must teach her family (and the newer acquisitions) that though an education is very important, not everything that you ever learn can be taught at school. There are dangers, temptations and obstacles that need skills other than academic knowledge to overcome. They need understanding, patience and resourcefulness too- and that's something that can't be taught in the city.

I found this to be a really enjoyable read with an incredibly imaginative and unique setting. Think the British Gas adverts meets Phillip Reeve's Predator Cities series. The World is really atmospheric and creates suspense successfully: the constant feeling of threat, the idea that life is quite tough for everyone and survival is against the odds (despite Peggy's age).

The characters are varied, well-rounded and I think they've got a very broad appeal. Peggy is a brilliant invention: funny and warm, feisty for her centenarian  years and allows the younger generation to learn from their successes and their failures- but she's tainted with a strange sadness throughout, like she knows something that her niece and nephew don't. Martin and Gemma, who take turns to narrate the story are likable, endearing and recognisably realistic- Martin is a dreamy idealist with no real idea for consequences, and Gemma, who sees herself as more put-upon and wiser, seems to resent his simple happiness quite a lot of the time, though it's clear she loves her brother and her aunt. Their squabbling and sibling-ly disgust at each other is funny and true to life. Though they fight and moan about another, they're a team and they each save the others neck a couple of times...

I really liked the episodic structure of the plot and the variety of accidents and predicaments that the characters found themselves in. It proved that there's a lot to be said for doing the right thing and having people around you that you trust. The message that it's not the destination but the journey that's important also really appealed to me- it's a message that I'd like to see moe of in children's writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment