Philip Reeve is underappreciated in the US. The Mortal Engines quartet was brilliant science fiction — pacy, philosophical, and heart-breaking. And then it was gone, apparently out of print. The prequel trilogy starring the incomparable Fever Crumb also failed to get as much traction as it deserved. Hopefully, the upcoming film of Mortal Engines will signal a rebirth of interest, and hopefully that will mean good things for Reeve’s latest, the unusual Railhead.
So, I think I made it pretty clear last year that I really like Alaya Dawn Johnson’s style. She’s smart and she writes books that appeal to me as a reader. But if you dismiss this as just another fangirl review, you’ll be missing out, because despite the flaws (and there are flaws — fannish and blind are not synonyms) this is one seriously notable book.
I’ve already gone on record saying that this is my personal frontrunner this year. It’s the book, above all other books, that worked for me as a reader and that I can support as a critic. If I were on the RealPrintz committee this year, I would have nominated this and I’d be passionately and loudly singing its praises in hopes that everyone could be convinced.
But in order to convince everyone, I need to marshal my arguments.
So here goes.
Let’s talk about voice (bay-bee), because this book features one of the strongest I’ve come across.
(And before you hit the jump, please remember that we do spoilers here. All the time. So if you are reading on and you haven’t read the book yet, I don’t think I’ll ruin it but I will spoil some parts. Caveat emptor.)
Let’s go back in time for a moment, to the heady golden days of science fiction as the place where sweeping stories examine the nature of humanity and also contain explosions and cool tech.
Are you with me?
Because A Confusion of Princes is a throwback in the best way possible.
This is pure space opera, which grows from adventure and Western roots. In this case, it’s space opera with a dash of coming of age and lots and lots of fun tech (only it’s tek here, and there’s a ton of it, each bit more inventive than the last), all of which adds up to the contemporary version of a Boy’s Own adventure.