Despite the popularity of his "Hungry Cities Chronicles", I'd never read anything by Philip Reeve until this week when I picked up Larklight subtitled: "A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space." Art Mumby and his older sister, Myrtle, are proud citizens of the British Empire, which in 1851 has extraterrestrial territories such as the Moon, Mars and Jupiter, who live with their father in Larklight, a large rambling house that is on an orbit in remote space. On the morning the story starts, a letter arrives informing Art's father that a Mr Webster is arriving. Unfortunately, Mr Webster is an outsized white spider who, with his spider horde, sets in motion an adventure that takes the squabbling siblings across the universe to battle the forces of evil. The spiders, who are the First Ones (the first sentient beings of the universe), want the key to Larklight so that they can use it to destroy the Empire and return to power across the universe. Art and Myrtle, believing their father to have died at the claws of the spiders, escape their home, only to be rescued by the notorious space pirate Jack Havock. His ship sails across the lunar sea with its crew who include a human-sized blue lizard named Ssilissa (Sil for short), a gigantic land crab named Nipper, two be-tentacled twin beings, Squidley and Yarg. Art narrates this tale, but when he and his sister get separated, readers are regaled with Myrtle's prim and proper diary entries.
Reeve's prose has a cinematic quality that describes his fantastic universe whilst also conveying the Victorian sensibility. There are also some very funny references to famous authors, such as Dickens, and a line that is pure Star Trek: "I cannae do it, Captain. I'm an alchemist, not an engineer." (Echoing both Scotty's "She cannae take any more Cap'n" and Bones' "I'm a doctor, not a ..." !)
Larklight is available from Amazon.com, and apparently Warner Brothers are going to adapt the book into a film, according to this April news story.