¡Rábanos Radiactivos!
... es no. 2260

Written by Fred Patten, and intended for Apa L, 2260th Distribution, LASFS Meeting No. 3708, September 4, 2008.
Golden State Colonial Convalescent Hospital, 10830 Oxnard Street, North Hollywood, California 91606-5098.
Telephone: hospital(818) 763-8247; personal (818) 506-3159 * eMail:fredpatten@earthlink.net

Anticipation in 2009! Aussiecon IV in 2010! Salamander Press #2744

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Last year, I reported that I had been asked to review books for The Flipbook, an online review fanzine by Gina Ruiz. Ruiz even got one of my reviews, of The Spriggan Mirror by Lawrence Watt-Evans, syndicated by the Reuters News Service.

The Flipbook has not been updated at all this year, and Ruiz has stopped sending me review books. Now the website itself has disappeared, adding to my distrust of the permanence of online fanzines.

Here is one of my reviews from The Flipbook, sent there on March 16, 2007.

Airborn
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: Eos/HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN; 10: 0-06-05180-0
13: 978-0-06-053180-5

Skybreaker
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: Eos/HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN; 10: 0-06-053227-0
13: 978-0-06-053227-0

In 1913, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote "The Horror of the Heights", a "scientific romance" about an inventor whose airplane flies higher than any human has gone before. He is attacked in the stratosphere by an unknown gaseous predator, analogous to the new deep-sea fishes just then being discovered by scientists, which could only live in the pressures of mile-deep abysses - a plausible speculation at the time.

Kenneth Oppel has returned to the world conceived by Verne and Doyle a century ago, of fleets of awesome dirigible airships floating through the skies, and unknown flying monsters that attack those who dare to reach new heights. In Airborne, young Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a luxury airliner that crosses the Pacific. After rescuing a dying balloon explorer who claims to have reached new heights where unknown forms of aerial life live, Matt is accosted by Kate de Vries, the balloonist's granddaughter who is irate that nobody believes in his discoveries. Matt and Kate are thrown together when the Aurora is beached on an uncharted tropical island after a battle with sky pirates, and the two use Prof. Molloy's findings to defeat the pirates and get the Aurora airborne again. In Skybreaker, a year later, Matt is aboard an airship that is blown upward in a hurricane where he glimpses higher still the derelict Hyperion, a legendary Flying Dutchman filled with both monetary and scientific treasures. Matt and Kate join an expedition to find the Hyperion. Each of their fellow explorers seem to have ulterior motives, and all are threatened by both human pirates and the vicious cloud monsters.

Oppel writes a rousing adventure story, but the plots are not as fascinating as Matt's fictional world. Giant dirigibles are held aloft by safe hydrium gas; the airships' home base is the world's commercial center, Lionsgate City, where Matt hopes to enter the elite Airship Academy, and the skies above 20,000 feet are filled with unknown species of life. There are 19th-century-style blueprints of the airships and, in Skybreaker, biological sketches of the stratospheric creatures. Even though the reader knows that Matt's world never existed, it is impossible to avoid getting swept up in the excitement of the action and the vividly detailed descriptions of the pseudo-lighter-than-air technology.

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