If you're an adult who is anxiously awaiting the day when you can introduce a young friend to the joys of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, Philip Reeve has provided you with the perfect stepping stone in Starcross: A Stirring Adventure of Spies, Time Travel and Curious Hats.
Starcross is a continuation of the Mumby family's adventures introduced in the well-received Larklight. Reeve's blend of 19th-century travelogue, spy caper and science fiction keeps the reader bubbling with mirth when not pleasantly horrified by the evil machinations of villains. These include, but are not limited to, a rogue whose alias is clever Cockney rhyming slang for hat, a French spy masquerading as an invalid and legions of thought-sucking parasites from the future that disguise themselves as top hats.
Art Mumby, along with his mother and sister, are invited to the asteroid belt's only seaside resort by the seemingly benevolent innkeeper, Mr. Titfer, only to discover that sudden daily appearance of the sea is the result of regular time travel to the Mars of 100,000 years ago. Mr. Titfer's sinister purpose in inviting the Mumby family for a visit is revealed when it turns out he has acquired equipment that only Mrs. Mumby can fix. Art's sister Muriel, meanwhile, finds herself stranded on ancient Mars with a wounded British secret agent and an insane but persistent French spy.
Art is an especially engaging narrator, with his readiness for adventure and his wariness at being used yet again as a bargaining chip to persuade his mother into some nefarious deed. When the narrative shifts to Muriel marooned on Mars, her put-upon air lasts just long enough to make the readers sympathetic to Art and his attitude to his sister's devotion to decorum.
It would be difficult for any reader to reach the triumphant end of Starcross without even one "Huzzah!" at the wit, ingenuity and delicious fun to be found in its pages. Of course, the cheer will be quickly followed by a plea of "Encore!"
Ellen Myrick practices her own form of time travel from her home base near Nashville. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
Art and Myrtle (Larklight) discover that Britain is being invaded by futuristic shapeshifters. The siblings reunite with pirate-turned-British-agent Jack Havock and are off to save the galaxy. Art and Myrtle are delightfully bombastic and vehemently British. The depths of dramatic tension work as counterpoint to the outlandish comedy, heightening humor and peril. Wyatt's meticulously detailed illustrations fill in any gaps. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #1
Enterprising young Briton-in-space Art Mumby and his sister Myrtle make their triumphant return in this sequel to Larklight (rev. 11/06). While vacationing at Starcross, a supposed "premiere resort hotel" that just happens to be situated amidst a temporal disturbance, they discover that Britain is being quietly invaded by top hat-disguised shapeshifters from the future whose diet (brain waves) affords them hypnotic powers. Art and Myrtle, felicitously reunited with pirate-turned-British-agent Jack Havock, are off to save the galaxy once again, and it's no tea party: there are mad scientists, prehistoric carnivores, even (mon dieu!) the French. Though less pointed than its predecessor, Starcross continues to lampoon Victorian-era ideals by faithfully transposing them to outer space. Myrtle expands her definition of proper ladylike pursuits while Art takes a stab at leadership; as narrators, both are delightfully bombastic and vehemently British. Where words fail, Wyatt's meticulously detailed spot and facing-page illustrations fill in the gaps, contributing to (and often interacting with) the playfully period text. The depths of dramatic tension work as counterpoint to the outlandish comedy, heightening both humor and peril in a well-crafted sequel that once again defies classification. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 October #1
"[T]he British Empire," declares Mrs. Emily Mumby, ancient superhuman creator of the Solar System and Art and Myrtle's mum, "stands on the brink of an invasion by highly intelligent hats from the future!" When the Mumbys travel to Starcross, a time-traveling seaside resort in the asteroid belt, they find themselves caught in a web of schemes most sinister: The proprietor of the resort, a hatter, has lured them there to take control of their minds with his evil Top-Notch Toppers in order to seize Mrs. Mumby's technology. But the hats have hegemonic designs of their own. Meanwhile, Jack Havock, space-pirate-turned-British-spy (and the object of Myrtle's affections), is on Starcross investigating a suspected French agent, who is determined to find and resurrect the wreckage of the fabled American privateer Liberty and use it to topple the British Empire. Toss in a handful of knitting goblins, a super-intelligent plant, "the Cockney Nightingale" and a healthy helping of quintessentially Victorian pomposity and pride in Empire, and the result is a romp that lives up to the standard set by Larklight (2006), its wildly imaginative predecessor. Huzzah! (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 November #1
In this dashing and outrageous sequel to Larklight , plucky Art Mumby, his annoying and lovelorn sister Myrtle and their highly competent mother (who is simultaneously a traditional Victorian gentlewoman and a "four-and-a-half-thousand-million-year-old entity from another star") travel through space to Starcross, "the Asteroid Belt's Premier Resort Hotel." They have been promised a relaxing respite from ongoing repairs to their orbital home--the resort purports to offer "the most tactful auto-servants... healthful air & the best opportunities for sea bathing in the Solar System." Instead, however, they encounter murderous Punch and Judy shows, giant carnivorous sand crabs, time-traveling pieces of the planet Mars, and a nefarious plot by alien top hats to wrest control of space from the British Empire. ("Britons never, never, never shall be slaves, or the victims of man-eating hats," Art tells himself when he is attacked in his hotel room.) While hilariously spoofing 19th-century imperial and colonial attitudes, various excesses of Victorian propriety, and such literary forms as the spy thriller and the space opera, this rambunctious, fast-moving tale also manages to provide plenty of thrills and excitement. This installment should easily win new readers for Reeve. Ages 10-up. (Nov.)[Page 64]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 6-10-- In this eagerly awaited sequel to the acclaimed Larklight (Bloomsbury, 2006), Art and Myrtle once again save the universe. When their home that floats through space is being redecorated, the Mumsbys receive an invitation for a fantastic free holiday at a new resort in the Asteroid Belt near Mars. Their mother, who happens to be 4 thousand million years old, accompanies the children, expecting rest and relaxation. But nothing is as it seems at Starcross: the hotel slips back and forth through time; demonic puppets need dodging; guests are turned into trees; and top hats alter minds. Jack Havock, the notorious space pirate and object of Myrtle's affections, is there, in the employ of Her Majesty's Secret Service. With the help of Jack, his motley crew, and the Mumsbys, several attempts to invade the British Empire and attain universal domination are scuttled. Art narrates most of the story, turning things over to prim Myrtle, the absolute blight in his life, briefly. Tongue-in-cheek, hilarious, and wildly imaginative, this intergalactic adventure that knows no boundaries of time or space contains a message of acceptance of those who are different as well as social commentary on imperialism and on advertising. Wyatt's expressive and witty pen-and-ink drawings add to the whimsy and humor. As imaginative as Reeve's writing, they clarify the characters, settings, and situations. Starcross is every bit as amazing as its predecessor. Fans will be delighted to know that a third book is on the way, and that the series has been optioned for a movie. Imagine the special effects.--Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME[Page 142]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.