Review of Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

FULL CAST AUDIO Audibook: Airborn by Kenneth OppelAirbornSFFaudio Essential
By Kenneth Oppel; Performed by a FULL CAST
10 CDs – 10.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1933322543
Themes: / Fantasy / Parallel World / Alternate History / Airships / Swashbuckling / Pirates /

…the pirate airship was already adjusting its course, keeping pace, and as it forced us closer to the waves, we would have less space to manoeuvre. There was a great flash from the pirate ship’s underbelly and a thunderous volley of cannon fire scorched the night sky across our bow.

A voice carried by bullhorn shuddered the air. “Put your nose to the wind and cut speed.”

The story of Airborn is told by 15 year old Matt Cruse, a lowly cabin boy on the a ziz-like commercial airship called the Aurora, primarily used as a passenger liner, the Aurora also carries industrial an commercial goods between continents. Matt was actually born in the air and dreams of becoming an officer one day, not only to further his career as an airman but also to better support his family back home. One day, while aloft and on watch, Matt spies a damaged hot air balloon drifting in the South Pacificus. Only Matt’s natural aptitude in the rigging can save the dying man carried in it. When Matt rescues him the feverish old man’s words are of an amazing, and highly improbable creature he’d spotted in the sky. A year or so later, young Kate de Vries, who was granddaughter to the hot-air balloonist, comes aboard the Aurora. Kate herself has dreams of following in her grandfather’s flightpath and becoming a famous naturalist. They might never have discovered her grandfather’s secret though, had it not been for sudden and vicious pirate raid lead by the legendary air-pirate Szpirglas (pronounced Spear-glass). After the attack and crash-landed on an uncharted island off the regular air-routes it is up to Matt to discover the secret of Kate’s grandfather, repair the damaged airship along with the crew and win the heart of Kate herself. If Matt can just pull it all together he might even live long enough to attend the Air Academy and become a officer.

This is a simple, almost classically structured, juvenile adventure story in the Heinleinian tradition. What is so different about this novel is that it isn’t set in a familiar setting – no spaceships and farm boys here, instead we have an alternate history/alternate universe tale, set on Earth, but an Earth which has place names subtly altered (The city of Vancouver is called Lionsgate City, the Pacific ocean is the Pacificus). Most importantly a flourishing airship economy has made the world of Airborn a cross between a benign steampunk world and pneumatic tube etherland of alternate science and technology. The successful airships industry is buoyed not by helium or hydrogen but instead by a mango scented and plentiful noncombustible gas: hydrium. Also in use are ornithopters, which are a fun but failed technology in our world, though they seem to serve well enough in Airborn, at least for short hops. The world’s extant empires are all subtly altered too, it appears that the expansive British Empire centered in “Angleterre, is tempered, perhaps by a more vigorous Germanic or French empire? North America itself is cut-up into “Kanada” and the “American Colonies”. The Aurora itself though is the primary setting of the novel. As a commercial passenger airship it is based out of Lionsgate City (Vancouver) and plies the airways of the Pacific to Sydney, Siberia and beyond.

There is a tremendous difference between a FULL CAST reading and a regular audiobook. A full cast audiobook, and by that I mean a FULL CAST AUDIO production, is as close to an audio drama as you can get without actually becoming a dramatization. Each character has his or her own actor, this along with descriptive text and punctuating music transmogrifies the unabridged words into vibrant mental images. I’d be willing to bet that if you were to hook-up a person listening to Airborn to a Functional Magnetic Resonating Imaging machine the FMRI would show tremendous activity in the visual cortex. There is a sequel, called Skybreaker in the release pipeline coming from Full Cast Audio, if it lives up to the standard set in writing and production it will be an SFFaudio Essential too.

FULL CAST AUDIO tells us to expect Tamora Pierce, Shannon Hale, Robert A. Heinlein and Kenneth Opel AUDIOBOOKS!

Audiobook Publisher - Full Cast AudioDaniel Bostick, producer director and actor at Full Cast Audio tells us…

“The following recordings are coming down the pipline in the next few of months:

THE WILL OF THE EMPRESS by Tamora Pierce (December 2006)
PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale (January 2007)
THE STAR BEAST by Robert A. Heinlein (1st quarter 2007)

For trivia fans: Fantasy Author Tamora Pierce and her husband Timothy Liebe will play cameo voice roles in PRINCESS ACADEMY.

Breaking news: We are in the casting stage of SKYBREAKER, Kenneth Oppel’s sequel to AIRBORN [SFFaudio Review Forthcoming]. It will record in February 07 for release later in the year.

We’re also considering participation in the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial in Kansas City next summer.”

Cool stuff.

Recent Arrival: Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Fantasy Audiobook - Airborn by Kenneth OppelAirborn
By Kenneth Oppel; Read by a Full Cast
10 CDs – 10.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1933322543

Here’s the latest arrival from Full Cast Audio, the premier producer of family-friendly audiobooks:

An incredible swashbuckling adventure, set in a world where great airships ply the skies and there are unknown lands and strange creatures still to be discovered. You’ll love the characters, and the story has the drive and verve of a Saturday morning serial.

Reminiscent of Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs—with a touch of Robert Louis Stevenson—this is adventure writing at its finest. And with its cast of larger-than-life characters, it was just made for our full cast treatment.

Full Cast Audio SFF for 2006

Full Cast Audio LogoBruce Coville the force behind Full Cast Audio has announced a number of 2006 upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy audiobooks and we’re salivating all over the list, check them out…

By Kenneth Oppel
“An incredible swashbuckling adventure, set in a world where great airships ply the skies. You’ll love the characters, and the story has the drive and verve of a Saturday morning serial. We can’t wait to get into the studio with this one, because it’s just so darn much fun!”

*This novel was broadcast as an abridged reading on CBC Radio One’s Between The Covers in 2004. This isn’t that version, FULL CAST AUDIO will be doing it with – a full cast and a complete and unabridegd production. Woo-hoo!

By Tamora Pierce
“The second novel in Tammy’s beloved Immortals Quartet pulls Daine into new adventures, and reveals more about the special nature of her magic. Great characters, piles of magic, and breath-taking adventure. You’re gonna love it!”

The Will of the Empress
By Tamora Pierce
2006 Science Fiction and Fantasy audiobooks and we’re salivating all over the titles”Tamora Pierce returns to the world of Circle of Magic for this smashing novel that brings the four young mages back together as teens. Suspense! Court intrigue! Romance! Fights! All the things that you love about Tammy’s books are here in abundance. We plan to release this simultaneously with the hardcover. Be listening for it!”

Enna Burning
By Shannon Hale
“This spine tingling companion to The Goose Girl is as wildly imaginative as its predecessor. Romantic, wise, unexpectedly dark in places, it has already developed a passionate following among Shannon Hale’s fans.”

The Star Beast
By Robert A. Heinlein
“Another beloved novel from the same period as Have Space Suit, Will Travel and The Rolling Stones. This one pits bureaucrats against John Thomas and his beloved alien pet, Lummox—a conflict that brings Earth to the edge of an interplanetary catastrophe. Filled with Heinlein’s crackling dialogue, which is just made to be read by a full cast.

Bruce has also lined up some very savory treats for 2007 and “beyond”…

Emperor Mage
By Tamora Pierce
“Book 3 of The Immortals Quartet.”

The Realms of the Gods
By Tamora Pierce
“Book 4 of The Immortals Quartet.”

The Red Planet
By Robert A. Heinlein

Between Planets
By Robert A. Heinlein

The Last Hunt (Book 3 of The Unicorn Chronicles)
By Bruce Coville
“(All right, all right—I’m still working on it. But once it’s written, we’ll also be recording it. I can tell you this much: it’s going to be a long one, probably as big as the first two books put together. Not everyone lives through it, and there are a few surprises about characters we know. And, yes, I’m very embarrassed that it wasn’t finished two years ago.)”

CBC RADIO ONE’s – Between The Covers program will …

SFFaudio Online Audio

CBC Radio OneCBC RADIO ONE’s – Between The Covers program will be broadcasting the award winning author Kenneth Oppel’s latest novel “Airborn” (a wild adventure with some fantastic twists. AIRBORN is set in an alternate past, where air travel has followed the route of giant dirigibles rather than jet planes. The cabin boy of a luxury airship discovers a remarkable secret in the clouds high above the earth and must find a way to keep it – and his ship – out of the hands of unscrupulous men).

Read by Andrew Hachey.

This program will air Weekdays at 2:30pm and 10:40pm starting Wed. Nov. 17 2004 and concluding Fri. Dec.10 2004.

Posted by Jesse Willis