Friday, April 22, 2011

Airborn, Skybreaker and Cloud Cats

Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series is in my blood now. Loved the first book, Airborn and thoroughly enjoying the 2nd- Skybreaker. There is a third which I look forward to reading in time- Starclimber.

The series is wholesome pulp fun that is family safe adventure. There is a genuine Jules Verne or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle feel to it. Leather and pistols, pirates and airships, adventure and zoology. Yes. Instead of a grail or ark- archeology, this adventure mixes zoology in!

The setting is an alternate historical Earth. Very similar to our familiar history with a lot more airships in it as a means of global travel. There is an elemental gas called hydrium which is even lighter than helium that allows for the prominence of so much air travel.

The first book of the series introduces a creature the protagonists name 'the cloud cat'. It is described as a large white panther with bat-like wings. It is suspected that the creatures could live their entire lives without ever touching the ground. The characters encounter many of the creatures and they play a prominent part in the story's plot. They are delicate and ferocious.

I managed to find a few images created by fans depicting the cloud cat...
Cloud Cat Concept by ashkey

Cloud Cat by xClown
Cloud Cat sketches by Rhynn

A Different Kind of Cloud Cats by Rhynn
Kenneth Oppel is an award winning author from Canada. His writing style is extremely clean and cinematic- at least for the Airborn series. My mind constructed scenes and shots so easily. It seems as if Oppel carefully words his writing. Never wasting words. He wrote his first book, Colin's Fantastic Video Adventures, while in high school in 1985 which ended up in the hands of Roald Dahl who recommended it to his agent.

I listened to the audio book version of both Airborn and Skybreaker. The production for both are higher than most audio books I've heard with a full cast audio recording. There are some subtle sound effects and musical hits at the beginning and ending of chapters, but thats all. Nothing too jarring. The production lets the narrator describe almost everything else. The cast of voices is top notch, also. Fantastic quality.

Oppel's Airborn series could easily fit into GURPS Infinite Worlds- Britannica-6. I'd love to write up the bestiary for the series using GURPS sometime.