Larklight (2006), by Philip Reeve

Subtitled The Revenge of the White Spiders; or, To Saturn’s Rings and Back! A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space, As Chronicled by Art Mumby, with the Aid of Mr. Philip Reeve and Decorated throughout by Mr. David Wyatt.

This leaves little doubt as to the writing style of this engaging text.  The story is set in an alternative Victorian world in which Frobisher did not discover the Arctic but rather landed on the Moon, and Sir Isaac Newton discovered the “chemical wedding” that drives the propulsion systems of the “aetherships” that travel through space.  Some dates and events are historically correct, such as the Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, and the dates of politicians’ service, but the history of the British Empire in Reeve’s world is altered to include other planets and alien creatures.

The British Empire is approaching its zenith, and the “scientific” categorization of other races is depicted in the Royal Xenological Institute’s investigations and dissections of Alien beings discovered in the far reaches of space.  The socio-political parallels are well presented, and any reader aware of the history of British Imperialism will be given cause for thought; perhaps readers unaware of this history will be induced to investigate the past from a more culturally aware perspective… on the other hand, the sheer fun of the text might prohibit any such critical analysis of the socio-political undertones of the setting.

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