Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel, 2005

I loved Oppel's Airborn. I describe it as Titanic in the air with a touch of Mysterious Island and Pirates of the Carribean thrown in. It was one of my favorite booktalks of 2004. In this sequel, Oppel takes us back to the world of graceful hydrium ships and into a search for gold.

Matt Cruse is serving part of his Paris Airship Academy cadet training on a"rust bucket" freighter when the crew sights a long vanished phantom ship, the Hyperion. The ship is at an unreachable altitude and like the Flying Dutchmen of ship lore; the Hyperion is more rumor than fact. Matt's captain is foolishly determined to capture it and its legendary treasure and almost destroys his own ship in the process. As the crew falls victim to the crushing altitude, Matt is able to save their lives by disobeying a direct order from his captain.

Back in Paris after this episode Matt is wondering if he has a future at the Academy or with the lovely Kate de Vries. Since meeting her on the Aurora Matt is more aware than ever of his impoverished circumstances. Kate wants to prepare an expedition to find the Hyperion though she is more interested in scientific discoveries than the treasure.

Matt alone knows the the ship's last position and others want his knowledge. Should he let the dream of wealth overtake him and join in the hunt for the Hyperion or should he plug away at his studies and forget the whole thing?

Like treasure hunters searching for Spanish galleons at impossible ocean depths, the team is ready to break the sky in their quest. A beautiful gypsy girl, a privateer with questionable motives, a prim governess, brilliant Kate and brave but confused Matt make up the party and are in for the flight of their lives.

As Kate suspects, there are other lethal creatures in the sky besides cloud cats. The other presence in the story is the "Howard Hughes-type" eccentric who built the Hyperion so many years ago. Is his spirit ready to part with the secrets of the ghost ship?

Horation Hornblower meets Jules Verne -- this is a cracking read. I hope Oppel will visit this world again. His fascination with bats continues by the way.

Skybreaker website

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